Tobacco Retail Licensure

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Use the map below to view information about each state. Scrolling over a state will provide some summary information, which you may click to access the state’s full report. You may also use the drop-down menu to access each state’s report.

Project Description

The purpose of this environmental scan is to provide basic context and background on the Tobacco Retail Licensure (TRL) market in all 50 states, and to use this information to illuminate areas for further investigation through a deeper analysis of the regulatory climate to enhance successful and sustainable policy development and implementation. This overview will provide a review of state laws, regulations, and policies that impact and guide work in this area. The analysis is a living document and will be updated annually; however does not address local TRL policies.

Methodology for Data Collection

Data collection and information gathering consisted of a review of the following resources: Public Health Law Center, State annotated code, regulation, or legislation, SYNAR database, FDA and CDC tables and data sets. Additionally, a review of state legislative websites, special interest groups, and private firm pages served as secondary sources of data gathering.

Why is TRL Important?

Tobacco retail licensure (TRL) is a key tobacco control measure to decreasing tobacco initiation among youth. The American Heart Association is committed to ending all tobacco use and nicotine addiction in the U.S. by minimizing the use of all combustible and non-combustible tobacco products while ensuring the next generation of youth do not become addicted to emerging nicotine products. This database will provide policy makers, researchers, and advocates with existing state-level policy as a foundation for strengthening their retail licensure laws, bringing in additional revenue for their tobacco endgame efforts, especially as new tobacco products continue to enter the market.

Policy Recommendations

  • Policies should include an annual retail license fee, that is paid by all tobacco retailers, which goes towards the enforcement of licensure requirements. The annual fee should be high enough to comprehensively cover the cost of enforcement, education trainings, and operational or administrative costs.
  • Licensure requirements should include the process by which the tobacco retailer applies, receives, and maintains permission to sell all tobacco products, including electronic nicotine delivery systems. The requirements should also address form types, deadlines, and the annual renewal process.
  • For enforcement purposes, there should be a minimum of at least one compliance check for violations of minimum legal sales age per tobacco retail license per year. Violations found through compliance checks should also require a recheck, ideally within 3 months.
  • Tobacco retail establishments must be required to comply with all federal, state and local laws, and subject to relevant fines or penalties for violations.
    • Specific to violations of the minimum legal sales age, penalties should include an escalating monetary penalty paid by the store or business owner.
    • Suspensions and ultimately license revocation should also be part of the penalty structure.
  • Penalties for sale should be levied on the owner/operator of the retail establishment,
    • Any violation count must be applied to the store, and not the employee, so that simply firing an employee does not reset the count on compliance violations by a store.
    • It is preferred that penalties be levied on the owner/operator and not the employee; however if a penalty is placed on the employee, it should not include potential jail time and should be lower than the penalty imposed on the retail owner. There should also be a penalty on the retailer for selling tobacco products without a license.

Additional Resources:

  1. Tobacco Retail Policy Trends in 2019 (from Aspire)
  2. Tobacco Retailers (from Aspire)
  3. Tobacco Retail Licensing: An Essential Tool to Reduce Youth Usage and Foster Health Equity (PDF from the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation)
  4. Tobacco Retailer Licensing (from Change Lab Solutions)
  5. State System Licensure Fact Sheet (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  6. Retail Policy and Licensure (from Public Heath Law Center at Mitchel Hamline School of Law)

Contact Us

This project is funded by the East Bay Community Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.