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Preventing Teen Tobacco Use

Attention: Cigarette Retail Dealers
 New sign required by State Law took effect on January 1, 2013 (download) 

DCA licenses cigarette retailers in New York City, and enforces City and State laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors. Additionally, all retail tobacco dealers in New York City must register with the State Department of Taxation and Finance to sell tobacco products in New York City. 

Youth Tobacco Enforcement and Prevention Program

DCA runs one of the best and most comprehensive Youth Tobacco Enforcement and Prevention Programs in the country. This program, which pairs inspectors and undercover minors, inspects essentially every City cigarette retail dealer every year to ensure they do not sell tobacco products to underage kids. The program is funded by a New York State grant administered by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Stores’ compliance has gone from 52%, when the program formally began in 1998, to more than 90% in recent years.

Attention: Teens Aged 15 to 17
DCA is seeking to hire minors between the ages of 15 and 17 for our Youth Tobacco Enforcement and Prevention Program.

Learn how to apply

Signage Posting
You must post the required state sign where you sell cigarettes so all customers can see it


  • Sell to minors. It is illegal to sell tobacco products (including bidis and gutka), herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, rolling papers, and smoking paraphernalia to individuals under the age of 18 years.

  • Sell loose cigarettes.

  • Sell “flavored” tobacco products unless your business is a tobacco bar. Illegal tastes or aromas include, but are not limited to, any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb, or spice. This law does not apply to cigarettes. The sale of flavored cigarettes is prohibited under federal law. Sale of tobacco products containing only the taste or aroma of tobacco, menthol, mint, or wintergreen is permissible.

  • Sell to customers lacking required ID. Customers must have a valid photo ID. Valid photo IDs include:
    • Driver’s license or nondriver’s ID card issued by any U.S. state or possession
    • ID issued by the federal government or the U.S. armed forces
    • Valid passport from any country 

A salesperson is not required to check the ID of a customer who appears to be at least 25 years old. However, the appearance of a customer cannot be used as a defense if the customer was, in fact, a minor.

  • Allow employees younger than 18 to sell or handle tobacco products, unless the employee is under the supervision of someone who is 18 or older.

  • Store products improperly. Tobacco products and herbal cigarettes offered for sale or on display must be stored behind a counter, inaccessible to the public, or in a locked container.

  • Operate vending machines in locations where minors have easy access.


  • Violations of City tobacco law may result in fines of up to $2,000, in addition to fines assessed under the state law, and the loss of the business’s DCA license.

  • Violations of state tobacco law may result in fines of up to $4,000, plus a $50 surcharge for each violation. Violations can lead to the loss of the business’s state retail sales registration and Lottery license.

  • Violators guilty of illegally selling cigarettes to a minor can only avail themselves of limited penalty waiver options if they show the seller held a valid certificate of completion from a State Certified Tobacco Sales Training Program.

New York State Department of Health
For more information about the state’s Tobacco Sales Training Program, tobacco vending machines, and sales to minors, call (800) 458-1158 or visit