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Tobacco & Nicotine
Legal Status
by Erowid
U.S. FEDERAL LAW #
Caution :   All legal information should be verified through other sources. [see below]
U.S. FEDERAL LEGAL SUMMARY
Tobacco
REGULATED
No
STATUS
Over-The-Counter
Age Restricted
SCHEDULE
Un-Scheduled
Tobacco and tobacco products are unscheduled in the United States and are legal for adults to both sell and possess. It is against FDA regulations to sell the following products to those under the age of 18:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigarette tobacco
  • Smokeless tobacco (Smokeless tobacco includes loose leaf chewing tobacco, plug chewing tobacco, twist chewing tobacco, moist snuff, and dry snuff.)

It is not federally illegal for those under 18 years old to purchase or possess tobacco...only for stores to sell to them. Some individual states have enacted legislation making possession by minors against the law.

See the FDA's New Federal Tobacco Regulations regarding children and tobacco.

After attempting to add frightening labeling to tobacco products, including intentionally horrifying photos of people with diseases, the FDA was sued by tobacco corporations and the proposed rule was stricken. See http://mohajerian.com/eresources/fda-graphic-cigarette-warning-labels.htm.
U.S. STATE LAW #
Generally in the US, most states now require tobacco products be purchased by those age 18 or over, in some states (such as Alaska), the age requirement is 19. There are some groups who advocate raising the legal minimum age to 21.

Starting in the 1990s, some states in the U.S. and some cities now ban smoking in indoor public spaces, restaurants, office buildings, bars, etc. New laws (the earliest we know of are from 2007) in some local areas have begun to ban tobacco smoking from public outdoor spaces and even in private spaces justified by health risks associated with second-hand smoke. See Smokes snuffed in Oakland public spots (Sep 19 2007) and Belmont council wants to ban smoking in condos and apartments (Sep 13 2007).

California #
On July 29, 2008 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that will prohibit pharmacies from selling tobacco products, effective October 1, 2008. (see SF Chronicle article)
Louisiana #
Effective Jan 1 2007, the Louisiana SmokeFree Air Act took effect, prohibiting smoking in public buildings, schools, and restaurants. The law makes an exception for private residences and vehicles, bars, tobacco shops, and race tracks. The penalty for first-time offenders is a $25 citation, followed by a $50 citation for second-time offenses and $100 citations for subsequent offenses. (see text of law, KATC News coverage, thanks GR).
Maryland #
Maryland bans the sale of cigarettes containing cloves: ""It is illegal to sell, give, or otherwise distribute clove cigarettes to ANY person, even if eighteen years old or older [Maryland Code, Criminal Law, 10-106]." See http://www.fha.state.md.us/ohpetup/tobacco/selling.cfm. (thanks C) (last updated Jun 2007)
INTERNATIONAL LAW #
Australia #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, regulated by federal government. Large fines for any business and/or individual who sells tobacco to a minor. Still many vendors don't ID check and fines may be increased. Nicotine patches and gum are sold at pharmacies at the discretion of the pharmacist. New laws in several states ban smoking indoors in public places (Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland, ACT) with bans coming in other states in 2007.
Belgium #
Minimum Age: Tobacco products cannot be sold to persons under 16. (thanks FH)
Bhutan #
Bhutan may be the first country in the world to have banned all tobacco products for its citizens. The ban reportedly does not apply to "foreign tourists", diplomats, and those working for NGOs". See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4012639.stm Dec 2004. All tobacco products have been banned in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Offenders face a $210 dollar fine and shop owners will lose their business license. Foreigners and diplomats are exempt, but will be charged with smuggling if they transfer tobacco to locals. The government has imposed a 100% tax on all tobacco products brought into the country for personal consumption by Bhutanese. (thanks RB) (last updated Jun 2007)
Brazil #
Tobacco is legal for persons over the age of 18 in Brazil, though the age limit is reportedly widely ignored. (see WHO report (thanks P)
Canada #
Minimum Age: It is prohibited by federal law to provide tobacco products to persons under 18 years of age. Further restrictions may apply in individual provinces. For example, in Alberta, people under age 18 who are caught smoking or in possession of tobacco products can not only have their cigarettes seized by police, but also can be fined up to $100. Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba have a minimum age of 18 for purchase, the rest are 19. (thanks B) See CBCNews Timeline of Canadian Tobacco Laws.
China #
According to BD: Sales/Distribution of Cigarettes to minors of school age is prohibited. [China's Law to Prevent Crimes by Minors, Item 15] and Smoking by elementary and secondary school students is prohibited. [Law of Jun 29 1991 on the exclusive sale of tobacco of the People's Republic of China]

However, these laws are universally ignored. In fact all citizens I interviewed, including a police officer were very fuzy or completely ignorant about the particular rules concerning tobacco.
Croatia #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, law not widely known. (J)
Czech Republic #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, possess, or sell tobacco products. (unconfirmed) (thanks hf) (last updated Oct 13 2011)
Denmark #
Minimum Age: Illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 16, law widely ignored. (thanks J)
Finland #
Minimum Age: Illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 18, strickly enforced. Under 30 required to show ID. Smoking inside most buildings prohibited, except for designated smoking-allowed rooms. P writes: "In Filand, smoking at a club is allowed if it has a designated, well-ventilated "tobacco room", where no drinks are allowed. At some of the biggest clubs the rules are not always followed and people tend to drink in the smoking rooms, but there are no chairs and the rooms are generally small. There are many bars and night clubs where there is no smoking room. Smoking is mostly done outside, even when it's -20c with t-shirts. But basically smoking is allowed inside in designated specially built places." (thanks P) (last updated Apr 2, 2013)
Germany #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, raised from age 16 on Sept 1, 2007. Although the German minimum age law was long-ignored, cigarette vending machines now use bank cards to verify age. Some vending machines still allow those age 16 to buy cigarettes, but the German Government has given until the beginning of 2009 for all to be changed to the new date. (See this World Tobacco report for more information.) (thanks C, DG)

Effective Jan 1 2008, each state is required to take steps to eliminate smoke from any venue where people are employed. As a result, smoking has been effectively banned by several German states in bars, restaurants, etc, subject to fine. (see Spiegel Online article) (thanks JL) (last updated Jan 2008)
India #
Bidis are widely smoked. In 2008, India passed a national law banning smoking in most public and work places. See Washington Post for discussion. (last updated Oct 2008)
Iran #
Legal for persons over the age of 18, though the age limit is completely ignored. (thanks M.)
Ireland #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase and consume (raised from 16 to 18 in ~2000). Large fines for selling to a minor. Restrictions: There is no smoking allowed in places of employment (with a few exceptions).
Israel #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase both cigarettes and tobacco (law established Feb 2005). Fines of about $3300 for business or individual who sells tobacco to a minor. Vendors seldom check ID, law widely ignored as of Apr 2005. (thanks HND)
Italy #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase (One visitor tells us that the age is 16). Regulated by state monopoly and growing tobacco requires licensure from the government. (unconfirmed) (thanks DL) (last updated Aug 23, 2011)
Japan #
Minimum Age: 20 to purchase pursuant a 1900 law. Available in vending machines, making age restriction difficult. Rarely enforced. (unconfirmed) (thanks N and Q)
Latvia#
In Sept a visitor reported: "It is illegal to use cigarettes before 18. The fine for using them is about 5 ls (about $10). It's illegal to sell them to underage people too, but it is widely ignored in Latvia." (unconfirmed) (thanks H)
Mexico #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, law is widely ignored. Some stores and most street vendors ignore age requirement for anyone who can pay. (unconfirmed, thanks Z)

As of Feb 2008 smoking is outlawed in bars, restaurants, and enclosed public spaces throughout Mexico (see Reuters article). Effective April 2008, smoking is prohibited in all public spaces in Mexico City, subject to fine (see Reuters article). (thanks J)
Netherlands #
As of Jan 1 2014, legal age to purchase tobacco products is 18 (changed from 16). Selling to a minor is punishable by steep fines. See Opgroeienzonderalcohol.nl (thanks TS)
Norway #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase or sell, law is enforced but availability among youth is widespread. (thanks P)
Poland #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, law is widely ignored. (thanks MS)
Portugal #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, recently changed from 16, law widely ignored. Tobacco-product vending machines are still widely available, but are normally kept in places that require a person allow access to them, such as a bar keeper. (thanks rm, D) (last updated Dec 8 2010)
Romania #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, law universally ignored. Not illegal to smoke/possess under 18, smoking indoors allowed nearly everywhere. (unconfirmed) (thanks PC)
Russia #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, law widely ignored. (thanks MLN)
Serbia #
Minimum Age: 18 to purchase, law widely ignored. (unconfirmed) (thanks MS)
Spain #
As of January, 2006, Spain has raised the minimum age to legally purchase tobacco to 18. Vending machines are still widely available, but it is illegal for minors to use them. (thanks D)
U.K. #
No minimum age for smoking. Laws vary slightly between England, Scotland, and Wales. It is NOT illegal to possess or use tobacco products. It is illegal to sell tobacco or cigarettes to anyone under 16 and sellers must be licensed. Under the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act of 1991 maximum fines for selling to under 16s were increased from BP400 to BP2,500.

Starting in 2003, the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act banned all advertising and promotion of tobacco products. After October 2007, minimum age to purchase cigarettes will rise to 18. On July 1, 2007, tobacco smoking will be banned in all indoor public spaces including restaraunts, pubs, workplaces, etc. Smoking outdoors and in private homes is unaffected. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6216523.stm. (thanks DW, M, J) (last updated May 29, 2007)
If you have information about the legal status of this substance in any other country, please let us know.

CAUTION & DISCLAIMER #
Erowid legal information is a summary of data gathered from site visitors, government documents, websites, and other resources. We are not lawyers and can not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided here. We do our best to keep this information correct and up-to-date, but laws are complex and constantly changing. Laws may also vary from one jurisdiction to another (county, state, country, etc)...this list is not comprehensive.