What is Tobacco 21?  

Tobacco 21 is a law that increases the tobacco age of sale from 18 to 21. Raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21 reduces tobacco initiation and addiction rates among youth.1 

What does the Tobacco 21 law mean for tobacco retailers?  

As of December 20, 2019, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was amended to raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products. This new change prohibits retailers from selling tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Such tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, and electronic vaping products.2   

On April 20, 2021, Tobacco 21 was enacted in Nevada as well. It is now a violation of both Nevada law and federal law to sell any tobacco products to someone under the age of 21. Such products include cigarettes, cigars, electronic vaping products as well as alternative nicotine products/nicotine derived products.  

How can retailers that sell tobacco products comply with the Tobacco 21 law?  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Responsible Tobacco Nevada3 suggest that retailers:  
  • Only sell tobacco products to customers that are 21 years old or older  
  • Check photo ID of anyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase any tobacco product  
  • Do NOT sell tobacco products in a vending machine unless it is in an adult-only facility  
  • Do NOT give away free samples of tobacco products to consumers, including any of their components or parts  
  • Do NOT sell cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, or roll-your-own tobacco that contain(s) a characterizing flavor 
  • Do NOT display advertisements for tobacco products without a health warning statement 
  • Do NOT sell cigarette packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes, including single cigarettes, known as “loosies” 
  • Do NOT break open packages of tobacco products to sell products in smaller amounts 
Review frequently asked questions about Tobacco 21 or download a flyer for your store by clicking here (Spanish flyer). For further information, please click here 

Why is Tobacco 21 important?  

While youth cigarette use has decreased dramatically over the last two decades, youth are now trying and using electronic vaping products at unprecedented rates-leading to a new generation on Nevadans that are at risk for nicotine addiction.  

Today, more than 1 in 5 (21.4%) Nevada high school students report using tobacco products-including electronic vaping products, cigarettes, cigars, or chew.

Research suggests that raising the tobacco age of sale to 21 may significantly reduce the number of youth and young adults that start smoking and, hence, could reduce smoking-related deaths. Reducing youth access to tobacco products, in this way, may have the largest effect on initiation rates among teens aged 15-17 years old.5  

Are there resources for retailers that sell tobacco products to help them comply with the law?  

Tobacco retailers play an important role in protecting children and adolescents by complying with laws and regulations. 

Retail owners, managers, and employees are encouraged to take the FREE online tobacco merchant training at ResponsibleTobaccoNevada (NV). Responsible Tobacco NV is a resource to help educate merchants about the current laws and regulations and to ensure proper training of staff members that sell tobacco products.   

The FREE online training provides:  
  • An overview of federal and state tobacco laws  
  • An overview of various tobacco products  
  • A how to guide for checking ID’s  
  • Tips on dealing with challenging customer interactions 

Proper tobacco retailer point-of-sale signage is important in order to inform customers about the minimum sales age law and remind employees to verify age before making a tobacco product sale. 

If you need assistance in purchasing signage or materials, please email us at GetHealthy@nnph.org. We may have funding available to help! 

Additionally, Northern Nevada Public Health and Washoe County Geographic Information Systems developed an interactive tool that highlights the density of tobacco retailers in our area and their proximity to Washoe County schools. Check it out HERE.

Last modified on 08/15/2023