While there is no federal law that prevents the sale of tobacco to minors, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services can withhold grant money to any state that does not have laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors. As a result, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have laws in place that make it illegal to sell tobacco products to minors.

Who Is Considered a Minor?

Most states define "minors" as those under the age of 18. Four states, Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah define a minors as those under the age of 19. 

What Does These State Laws Require of Tobacco Vendors?

Depending on your state, if you are a tobacco vendor, you might be restricted by specific laws and regulations. In 37 states plus the District of Columbia, it is required that tobacco vendors post signs at the point of sale stating that the sale of tobacco to minors is illegal. Additionally, 17 States plus the District of Columbia require that tobacco vendors check the I.D. of anyone buying tobacco products if they appear to be under the age of 18.

On top of these laws, many states and private companies, such as CVS and Chevron, have developed more stringent regulations. Some of these regulations include:

  • Checking the I.D. of anyone attempting to purchase tobacco products who appears to be under 27 years old.
  • Prohibiting the use of vending machines to sell tobacco products.
  • Prohibiting distribution of free tobacco product samples.
  • Training employees on state and local laws, as well as company policies regarding the sale of tobacco to minors
  • Conducting random compliance checks to ensure employees are following rules and procedures

What Can Happen If I am Caught Selling Tobacco to a Minor?

Penalties for selling tobacco to minors vary depending on state law. Some penalties include fines ranging from $100 to over $1,000. Repeat violations can result in a criminal misdemeanor. Additionally, your employer may be heavily fined, which may result in you losing your job.

Is it Illegal for Minors to Attempt to Purchase Tobacco Products?

Depending on state law, minors who attempt to purchase tobacco products may face penalties ranging from fines to community service. 

How Can I Protect Myself From Accidently Selling Tobacco to Minors?

You can protect yourself from accidently selling tobacco to minors by knowing and following local and state laws. You should ask your employer what the law in your state is and how you can comply with it. Additionally, you can ask your employer to post signs that state clearly that you will not sell tobacco to minors. You should also establish a procedure to help verify the age of someone buying tobacco. Furthermore, you can request additional training such as how to spot a fake ID. By taking these steps, you can help ensure that you are not caught selling tobacco to a minor.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I am Caught Selling Tobacco to a Minor?

A criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on your state law and the rights and defenses available to you. Not only that, but if you are prosecuted, a criminal defense attorney will be able to help you with a defense and advise you as to what options may be open to you.