Age Minimum to Sell Tobacco Products – 4/22/05

Q: In my state, there is no law/statute that states a minimum age for an employee to sell tobacco. It appears to be the decision of the store/corporation in their own policies. We have laws for liquor distribution, but not tobacco. Do any of the other states have a law in place with a minimum age requirement to sell tobacco?

A:

  1. Alabama: The minimum age to purchase is 19 in Alabama. There is no minimum age to sell, however the minor must be under the supervision of an adult to sell tobacco.
     
    “It shall not be unlawful for a minor employee of a tobacco permit holder to handle, transport, or sell tobacco or tobacco products if the minor employee is acting within the line and scope of employment and the permit holder, or an employee of the permit holder who is 21 years of age or older, is present.”
     
  2. Arkansas: The following is Arkansas Law: ACA 5-27-227:
    1. It shall be unlawful for any person to give, barter, or sell to a minor under eighteen (18) years of age:
      1. Tobacco in any form; or
      2. Cigarette papers.
    2. It shall be unlawful for any person under eighteen (18) years of age:
      1. To use or possess, unless acting as an agent of the minor's employer within the scope of employment:
        1. Tobacco in any form; or
        2. Cigarette papers;
           
          This allows underage clerks to possess tobacco within the scope of employment. Some companies have policy that their underage clerks do not sell tobacco, but that is strictly company policy – not law. It seems to be a problem in Arkansas as well.
           
  3. California: No law in California. Corporate/store decision also. Only thing that would count would be labor laws (age limits for anyone to be employed).
     
  4. Colorado: No state law addressing age requirements for selling tobacco.
     
  5. Delaware: No age requirement for selling tobacco.
     
  6. Hawaii: There is no minimum age to sell, BUT if a minor is charged with selling the (minor) seller will be arrested and will be booked.
     
  7. Massachusettts: No law.
     
  8. Michigan: Michigan doesn't have a law specifically stating a minimum age for sale of tobacco products, so by default it's left up to employers. There is however, a Michigan 'youth employment standards act' that says a minor shall not be employed in, about, or in connection with an occupation which is hazardous or injurious to the minor's health or personal well-being or which is contrary to standards established pursuant to this act, unless a deviation is granted under section 20. Section 20 charges the department of labor with promulgating rules with standards not inconsistent with the working conditions, safety,health and personal well-being of minors in various types of employment. To my knowledge, no one has ever pursued this avenue as a possible option of disallowing minors under 18 from engaging in retail sale of tobacco products.
     
  9. Missouri: No law. Section 407.933. 1. of Revised Statutes of Missouri: "No person less than eighteen years of age shall purchase, attempt to purchase or possess cigarettes or other tobacco products unless such person is an employee of a seller of cigarettes or tobacco products and is in such possession to effect a sale in the course of employment,..."
     
  10. New Hampshire: The NH Liquor Commission, Bureau of Enforcement is tasked with enforcing tobacco sales in NH. Lieutenant Edwards, from the Commission, weighed in by stating that the legal age to sell tobacco in NH is 16, provided that someone over the age of 18 is in charge of the licensed establishment.
     
  11. North Dakota: We do not have a state law for minimum to sell, but we do have a local ordinance in the City of Dickinson regarding this.
     
  12. Rhode Island: No law. In Rhode Island we have certain laws on the books regarding sales to minors. Go to www.health.ri.gov and click on t or s, for tobacco or smoking. Click on Rhode Island Tobacco Control Program and scroll down to Laws. These are the laws that we have re: youth.
     
  13. Washington: Washington State has no minimum age to sell tobacco but does require that where persons under 18 sell tobacco, there must be a supervisor over the age on 18 on site at all times.
     
  14. West Virginia: In West Virginia this question comes up a few times a year. Our State Code (W.Va. Code 16-9A-3) states, "No person under the age of eighteen years shall have on or about his or her person or premises or use any cigarette, or cigarette paper or any othe rpaper prepared, manufactured or made for the purpose of smoking any tobacco products, in any form; or, any pipe, snuff, chewing tobacco or tobacco product;......
     
    When a minor sales clerk is touching a tobacco product or papers or pipes, he/she is serving as an agent of the retailer and is not touching the product for his/her intention of consuming it.
     
    WV does have a law that requires adults 18+ to handle the sale of alcohol, but we do not have a comparable law for tobacco products. We don't think there is a need to open up WV State code to add in anything which prohibits a minor sales clerk from handling the products (it would be too dangerous, they'd probably slip in preemption).

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