A Guide for Tobacco Merchants

Revised June 2018

Vending Machines and New York State's Youth Access Tobacco Control Laws

If you violate these laws, you risk:

  • fines of up to $1,500
  • a $50 surcharge for each violation
  • loss of your certificate of registration to sell tobacco products or herbal cigarettes
  • suspension of your lottery license

This guide is for informational purposes only. A full copy of the law can be obtained from your local enforcement officer.

Why The Law Was Enacted

This law was enacted to help stop the sale of tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine, and rolling papers and other smoking paraphernalia to anyone under 18 years of age. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, powdered tobacco, bidis, gutka, shisha, and any other tobacco product. Herbal cigarettes are made primarily of an herb or combination of herbs and are intended to be used in the same manner as tobacco. Electronic cigarettes are electronic devices that deliver vapor which is inhaled, and include any refill, cartridge, and any other component of such device. Liquid nicotine, also known as electronic or e-liquid, is a liquid composed of nicotine and other chemicals.

How Does The Law Affect Vending Machines?*

Tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, and electronic cigarettes may not be sold, even from vending machines, to persons less than 18 years of age. Vending machines used to dispense tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes can be located only in:

  • bars or the bar area of restaurants
  • private clubs
  • tobacco businesses (primary activity is the sale of tobacco products and accessories)
  • places of employment, as long as an insignificant portion of the workforce (if any) is under 18 and the machine is not accessible to the general public.

The vending machine must be in plain view and under direct supervision and control of the person in charge of the location or his/her designee. Vestibules and entranceways are not considered to be areas under direct supervision.

*Federal regulations restrict vending machine sales of these products to adult-only facilities.

How To Comply With The Law

  1. Sell tobacco, herbal cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes only to people who are 18 years old or older. If you are not sure of the person's age, you can check his/her ID that is issued by the government. Examples of acceptable IDs are a valid driver's license or non-driver's ID, a military ID or a passport. ID cards issued by colleges are not acceptable.
  2. Locate the vending machine in an area where it is always in plain view and under direct supervision. One way to ensure that minors don't purchase tobacco from the vending machine is to use a locking device or similar means on the machine so you can monitor the age of people making purchases.
  3. Post a sign* that your customers can easily see that reads: "SALE OF CIGARETTES, CIGARS, CHEWING TOBACCO, POWDERED TOBACCO, SHISHA OR OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS, HERBAL CIGARETTES, LIQUID NICOTINE, ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES, ROLLING PAPERS OR SMOKING PARAPHERNELIA, TO PERSONS UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE IS PROHIBITED BY LAW."
  4. Do not sell single cigarettes, sometimes referred to as "loosies" or "singles". All cigarettes must be sold in the manufacturer's packaging.
  5. "Bidis" or "beedies" and/or gutka can only be sold at tobacco businesses. These businesses must post an additional sign* that reads: "SALE OF BIDIS TO PERSONS UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE IS PROHIBITED BY LAW." and/or "SALE OF GUTKA TO PERSONS UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE IS PROHIBITED BY LAW."
  6. Don't sell tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes in your vending machine unless it has an up-to-date Certificate of Registration sticker from the State Department of Taxation and Finance for selling these products.

*Signs are available from your local enforcement officer.

How Are The Youth Access Tobacco Control Laws Enforced?

The local designated enforcement officer works for the state or county Department of Health or New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. The enforcement officers routinely visit businesses that sell tobacco products to determine if they are in compliance with the law. The visits may include one or more of the following.

  • Checking the location and supervision of vending machines.
  • Having underage youth attempt to purchase tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes.
  • Verifying that the vending machine has a current tobacco registration sticker.*
  • Checking for minimum package size requirements.
  • Looking for the proper signage.
  • Checking that bidis and gutka are sold only at tobacco businesses.

*If the vending machine does not have an up-to-date tobacco registration sticker, the name and address of its location will be reported to the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance for investigation.

What Are The Penalties For Violating The Law?

If your business is found in violation of the law, the enforcement officer will serve you a violation notice to appear for a hearing. If a violation(s) is sustained as a result of a hearing or an agreement where you admit to the violation(s), the enforcement officer will impose a fine and a surcharge for each violation. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and, if you are a lottery agent, the New York Lottery, will be notified that you were found in violation. Depending on previous violations, these departments will then suspend or revoke your registration or license according to the law.

First violation

  • Fines from $300 to $1,000.

Second violation

  • Fines from $500 to $1,500.

Subsequent violations

  • Fines from $500 to $1,500.
  • Your vending machine tobacco registration will be suspended for one year after a third violation in a two-year period or after four violations over any time period.
  • For any four violations occurring in a three-year period, your lottery license will be revoked for one year.

All violations

  • A $50 surcharge for each violation.
  • Violations will be published in a local newspaper.

Herbal products, such as herbal cigarettes, cigars and pipe filler, cannot be sold to anyone under 18.

  • You are subject to the same fines and penalties as those for tobacco.

"Bidis" or "beedies" and/or "gutka" can be sold only at tobacco businesses.

  • The sale of bidis or gutka from a non-tobacco business will result in a fine of up to $500.

Check Your Local Laws And Regulations

Some local governments have enacted local laws regulating the sale of tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and other products. In these cases, the stricter law (state or local) must be followed.

For Questions On New York State's Youth Access Tobacco Control Laws:

Contact your local enforcement officer, or write or call:

Center for Environmental Health
Bureau of Community Environmental Health & Food Protection
Empire State Plaza-Corning Tower, Room 1395
Albany, New York 12237
(518) 402-7600

For Questions About Tobacco Registration Requirements:

New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
W. A. Harriman State Office Campus
Albany, NY 12227
(800) 972-1233

Publication 3492 Ver 6/18