The Springfield Public Health Council (SPHC) voted unanimously to increase the minimum purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21 years of age, followed by a unanimous vote by the City Council on January 8, 2018 to approve all required fees and/or fines. To read more about this new regulation click here.
Adapted from information provided by “Under27.org: Make Smoking History,” a website of The Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program.
Tobacco retailers play an important role in keeping kids healthy. By making sure youth under the age of 21 are not able to buy tobacco products, they work with your community to protect young people—and stay in compliance with the law.
Selling tobacco to people under 21 is illegal.
The sale of any form of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21 is against the law and will result in fines. Tobacco products include cigarettes, little cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, loose tobacco, blunt wraps and bidis, as well as any other product containing tobacco. The sale of single cigarettes to people of any age is also prohibited. Free samples to people of any age are prohibited, except in adult-only retail facilities.
In Massachusetts, many state and local laws deal with the sale of tobacco products. The primary purpose of these laws is to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors(persons under 21 years of age). “Tobacco products” means tobacco in any of its forms, including cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, cigarillos, clove cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, loose tobacco, blunt wraps, and bidis as well as any other product containing tobacco.
This section describes three types of laws dealing with tobacco sales:
- Massachusetts State laws
- the Massachusetts Attorney General’s regulations, and
- local laws.
If you sell tobacco, you must obey all of these laws. If there is a difference among laws, you must follow the strictest one.
1. Massachusetts State Laws About Tobacco Sales
State laws are passed by the Massachusetts Legislature, and apply equally in all towns and cities in the state. The most important state law controlling tobacco sales in Massachusetts prohibits the sale of any tobacco products to persons under the age of 21, and sets fines for breaking this law.
Anyone who sells tobacco to a person under 21 may be punished by a fine: at least $100 for the first offense, at least $200 for the second offense, and at least $300 for subsequent offenses. State laws are enforced by local authorities or the Attorney General’s Office.
The law also says that a sign must be posted where customers can see it, stating that sale of tobacco products to persons under age 21 is illegal. Tobacco vending machines are also required to have similar signage. Scroll down for more information about signage requirements.
It is your responsibility as a tobacco seller to follow Massachusetts state law.
2. The Attorney General’s Tobacco Sales Regulations
The Attorney General of Massachusetts has the power to make regulations under the consumer protection law. Here is a summary of some of the Attorney General’s regulations on tobacco sales:
- Store clerks must check the age of any customer wanting to buy tobacco who looks younger than 27 years of age. To check the person’s age, the clerk can accept only a valid government-issued photo I.D. (like a driver’s license or passport).
- It is illegal to sell any tobacco product that has been removed from the manufacturer’s packaging.
- Tobacco products generally may be sold by stores only in a direct face-to-face exchange. (Tobacco vending machines are allowed ONLY in businesses that have liquor pouring licenses. These vending machines must have a lock-out device and be located close to store staff within their sight and control. In addition, they must display a sign saying that minors are not permitted to buy tobacco.)
- Self-service displays are prohibited and tobacco products must be placed out of the reach of consumers, except in adult-only retail facilities.
- Businesses that sell tobacco must take all steps reasonably necessary to prevent the sale of tobacco to person under 21. Businesses with fewer than 6 employees will be presumed to meet this requirement if they have a training program for employees about selling tobacco products. Businesses with 6 or more employees will be presumed to meet this requirement if they have a training program and a “secret shopper” program to check whether their clerks are following tobacco sales laws, of if they received a written notification of compliance from a state or local authority.
- Free samples of tobacco are prohibited except in adult-only retail facilities.
- Retailers who fail to follow these tobacco sales regulations may be liable for civil penalties and the costs of investigation and suit.
It is your responsibility as a tobacco seller to follow the Attorney General’s regulations.
3. Local Laws About Tobacco Sales
Cities and towns in Massachusetts have the power to pass laws that apply within their own borders.
Massachusetts state law requires that the following signs be posted in all establishments that sell tobacco products.
This sign must be posted at the cash register that receives the greatest volume of individual cigarette package sales. It must be hung so that it can be easily seen by customers standing at or approaching the cash register, at a height between 4 and 9 feet from the floor.
This sign must be posted at all other cash registers. It must be hung so that it can be easily seen by customers standing at or approaching the cash register, at a height between 4 and 9 feet from the floor.
This sign must be hung on the front of the vending machine, so that it can be easily seen by a person standing at or approaching the machine. Tobacco vending machines are permitted ONLY in adult-only establishments.
50 SQUARE INCHES IN SIZE MINIMUM
This sign must be hung in a clear and conspicuous format and in a location readily visible to the consumer (such as the tobacco display area) if the retailer is selling hand-rolled cigars or displays for purchase manufactured cigars outside of their original package. Two signs have been approved; either sign may be hung.
To see whether retailers are following tobacco sales laws, the Springfield Tobacco Cessation & Prevention Program performs unannounced compliance checks. During these checks, a teenager under 21 years of age tries to buy a tobacco product. If tobacco is sold to this youth, the Board of Health knows that the business has not followed the law.
Penalties (such as fines and loss of license) for sale of tobacco products to minors are specified in Massachusetts state law and local regulations, ordinances, or by-laws.
Anyone who sells tobacco to a person under 21 may be punished by a fine of at least:
- $100 for the first offense,
- $200 for the second offense, and
- $300 for subsequent offenses.
State laws are enforced by local authorities or the Attorney General’s Office.
Note: Our goal is not to catch you breaking the law! We want to help you comply with the laws and discourage underage youth from buying and using tobacco products. Protect your business and your community! Contact Neville Anglin, Program Director, for materials and training to make sure your business and your employees comply with national, state and local laws.