Information about state, local, and federal tobacco and nicotine laws

State, local, and federal laws regulate the marketing and sale of tobacco and nicotine products.

State law

This section provides an overview of key components of Massachusetts’ laws governing the sales of tobacco and nicotine products. It is not a comprehensive list of all related laws and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

  • An Act Protecting Youth from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction, (Chapter 157 of the Acts of 2018) effective December 31, 2018:
    • Prohibits the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarette/vaping products, to anyone under the age of 21, except if the person is born before December 31, 2000; (*Note that municipal ordinances increasing the minimum age to 21 may prohibit sales to those born before December 31, 2000.)
    • Requires retailers to post updated signage reflecting the new minimum legal age of sale;
    • Prohibits “health care institutions,” such as pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and supermarkets with pharmacies from selling tobacco products, including e-cigarette/vaping products;
    • Requires retailers to sell liquid nicotine in child-resistant packaging;
    • Prohibits the distribution of free samples of tobacco products, including e-cigarette/vaping products, except by adult-only retail tobacco stores and licensed smoking bars;
    • Prohibits the use of e-cigarette/vaping products on public and private school grounds and facilities and at school-sponsored events;
    • Prohibits the use of e-cigarette/vaping products in nursing homes; and
    • Prohibits the use of e-cigarettes/vaping in locations covered by the Smoke-Free Workplace Law.
  • Retailers must comply with the Attorney General’s Tobacco Consumer Protection Regulations, 940 CMR 21.00 and 940 CMR 22.00, regarding the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and cigars, which are intended to prevent access to these products by minors. Among other things, the regulations require retailers to ask individuals who appear to be under the age of 27 for identification, to sell liquid nicotine in child-resistant packaging, and to implement all measures reasonably necessary to prevent the sale of these products to minors.
  • Retailers and distributors of tobacco products are required to have a state tobacco license. For more information about licenses, including applying for a license, a list of licensed cigarette retailers, and a list of licensed cigarette distributors, visit the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s website.
  • Participating manufacturers must comply with the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement.
  • Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 94F, cigarettes cannot be sold, offered for sale, or possessed for sale in Massachusetts, or stamped for sale in Massachusetts, unless the manufacturer and brand family are identified in the Tobacco Product Manufacturers Directory. This restriction applies as well to roll-your-own tobacco. Information about Tobacco Product Manufacturers certification from the Attorney General’s Office can be found here. Frequently asked questions about the Directory can be found here.
  • Under M.G.L. c. 64C, cigarettes, cigars, smoking tobacco and smokeless tobacco are subject to a state excise tax. Cigarettes are also subject to minimum pricing laws. Additional information about tax laws, including compliance with pricing and stamping laws, is available through the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
  • Smoking bars, as defined in M.G.L. c. 270, § 22, are required to have a state permit.
  • The Massachusetts Smoke-Free Workplace Law, M.G.L. c. 270, § 22, prohibits smoking in private offices, restaurants, bars, schools, taxis, and other places of work. Information about the Smoke-Free Workplace Law, including but not limited to frequently asked questions, smoke-free school policies, and reporting a violation, is available through the Massachusetts Tobacco and Prevention Control Program.
  • State law requires tobacco manufacturers to submit annual nicotine yield reports to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Local laws

A majority of municipalities in Massachusetts have enacted local ordinances and by-laws to further regulate tobacco and nicotine products. For example, many municipalities have enacted regulations to:

  • Raise the minimum legal age of sale to 21
  • Require vape shops to have a municipal permit
  • Restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarette products, to adult-only establishments
  • Set a cap on the number of retailers allowed in a municipality
  • Regulate packaging and minimum pricing of single cigars

Boards of Health, in addition to the Food & Drug Administration, conduct compliance checks to ensure that retailers are following the law.

Contact your city or town’s Board of Health for information about compliance with local regulations.

Federal law

Pursuant to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to prevent youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. The FDA has the authority to promulgate regulations to govern the tobacco industry. The FDA also conducts compliance checks to ensure that retailers are following the law.

Federal law requires internet cigarette retailers who sell cigarettes to Massachusetts residents to register with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and report certain information to the state.

Additional information about compliance with federal requirements and regulations for tobacco manufacturers is available on the FDA’s website.

Additional information about compliance with federal requirements and regulations for tobacco retailers, including vape shops, is available on the FDA’s website.

The FDA also publishes guidance to help industry members comply with federal law.

Information about the FDA’s November 15, 2018 announcement regarding flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarette products, and menthol cigarettes is available on the FDA’s website.

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