How To Obtain A Cigarette & Tobacco License
Tobacco industry is heavily regulated, and one is required to obtain a license when selling, importing or manufacturing cigarettes and other tobacco products. Typically, other tobacco products (OTP) have somewhat less strict licensing requirements than cigarettes.
Tobacco licenses are granted by local, state or federal authorities, depending on the location of the business and nature of tobacco related activity. Below we list the types of licenses and the authorities that issue them.
Retail Tobacco Licenses
A retail cigarette/tobacco license is a legal document issued by the concerned state department (and in some cases also city or county) which signifies that a business is legally allowed to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products in accordance with the state law from a specified location to the consumers who are allowed to buy them.
In most states, as well as some local jurisdictions, every retailer who sells or will sell cigarettes or tobacco products is required to obtain a retail cigarette and tobacco license and bound to renew it annually.
“A Cigarette/Tobacco Retailer” is a person or business, other than a wholesale dealer, who sells cigarettes or tobacco products directly to the public from a specified retail location, including cigarette vending machines.
Every retailer intending to sell cigarettes or tobacco products in states and/or jurisdictions requiring a cigarette/tobacco license must apply for and obtain one. All new applications must be submitted with a one-time license fee (vary by state) for each retail location selling cigarettes or tobacco products, and each retail location must have a separate license. In most states a license is valid for a twelve-month period, is not assignable or transferable, and must be renewed annually.
Please remember that you may not sell cigarette and/or tobacco products without a valid Cigarette and Tobacco License.
Responsibilities of License Holder
As a dealer of cigarettes or tobacco products you must:
- Prominently display the license at each licensed location in a manner visible to the public.
- Keep complete and legible purchase invoices for cigarettes and tobacco products for four (4) years.
- Keep these invoices at the location indicated on your license for the first year after purchase.
- Allow Board staff or law enforcement agencies to review your invoices upon request.
The law also adds record keeping requirements and other provisions related to your purchase or manufacturing of cigarettes and tobacco products.
Applying for Tobacco Permit
A corporate office may submit a single application for all of its stores, but the appropriate information (addresses, etc.) must be stated on the application along with the submission of the fee for each store.
Displaying the License
Every retailer of cigarette and tobacco products must prominently display their license at each retail location in a manner visible to the public. If retailers fail to display the license, they are liable for a penalty and their license may ultimately be subject to suspension and revocation.
Failing to Obtain Tobacco License
If you do not obtain a tobacco license and continue to sell cigarettes or tobacco products you might be subject to fines and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
Tobacco Manufacturer License
Manufacturers of cigarettes and other tobacco products such as cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, hookah tobacco (shisha), roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco, chewing tobacco, etc, are required to obtain Federal license from Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and local license from the state where tobacco products are manufactured.
For help obtaining necessary licensing for a new tobacco manufacturer please contact our customer service at (877) 330-2677.
Tobacco Wholesaler License
Wholesalers and distributors of cigarettes and other tobacco products are required to obtain licenses from the states where they plan to sell tobacco products.
For help obtaining necessary wholesaler or distributor licenses in any of the 50 states and DC please contact our customer service at (877) 330-2677.
Importers of raw tobacco or tobacco products are required to obtain Federal license from Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and local license from the state where tobacco products will be imported into.
Tobacco Export Warehouse Proprietors: the law requires that everyone who intends to warehouse tobacco products for export without payment of tax, or with drawback of tax, obtain a permit from TTB.
For help obtaining necessary licensing for a new tobacco importer or exporter please contact our customer service at (877) 330-2677.
Different Retail Locations
You must obtain a license for each retail location you own or operate. For example, if you operate several different stores and each store sells cigarettes or tobacco products, you must obtain a separate license for each store location. However, typically you may submit a single application for multiple locations.
Renewing Your Cigarette License
Most licenses must be renewed annually. If you fail to renew your license timely and allow your license to expire, you will be required to pay a reinstatement fee as a precondition for reinstatement.
REMEMBER: you may not sell cigarette and/or tobacco products without a valid Cigarette and Tobacco License/Cigarette license.
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