Three years ago, in June 2009, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was granted the authority to regulate tobacco products and a whole new set of rules and requirements were implemented for tobacco retailers. While various retail tobacco regulations are in effect, some regulations are still being drafted by the FDA’s Center for Tobacco products, and other provisions of the federal law are the subject of lawsuits.
Here is a brief summary of the existing rules that retailers need to abide by to be compliant with the law:
Do not sell cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, or smokeless tobacco to anyone younger than 18 years of age. Note that the minimum age to purchase tobacco products is 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah.
Verify a customer’s age by means of photographic identification containing the bearer’s date of birth. Request and check identification for all individuals who are under the age of 27. (This request must be made each time a customer comes into the store even if employees have personal knowledge that the customer is of adult age, but not older than 27.)
Sell cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, or smokeless tobacco only in a direct, face-to-face exchange between the retailer and a customer, without the help of any electronic or mechanical device. That is, a retail store employee should see the customer with his or her own eyes and physically give the product to the customer. Note that the face-to-face exchange requirement does not apply if the retailer is using a vending machine or self-service display in a facility where no one younger than 18 years of age is present—or permitted to enter—at any time.
Do not break open any cigarette, roll-your-own tobacco, or smokeless tobacco package to sell or distribute individual cigarettes or any number less than 20 cigarettes or any quantity of smokeless tobacco that is smaller than the smallest package distributed by the manufacturer for individual consumer use.
Do not give away any free samples of cigarettes.
Do not offer or give away any gift or item with the purchase of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, or smokeless tobacco products.