Cigarette & Tobacco Products Licensing Act of 2003 - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do I need a license to sell cigarettes and/or tobacco products?
  2. How do I apply for a license to sell cigarettes and tobacco products?
  3. What is the cost of the license?
  4. Do I need a separate license for each of my stores, or is one license for all of my stores sufficient?
  5. Do I have to renew my license?
  6. Can our corporate office apply for licenses for all of our store locations, or does each store have to apply separately?
  7. Do I have to display the license?
  8. Who is enforcing this law?
  9. Who will be checking to see if I have a license?
  10. What will happen if I do not obtain a license?
  11. What types of products are covered under the law?
  12. What are the new requirements for cigarettes and tobacco wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers or importers that impact retailers?
  13. Can a city or county require a retailer to obtain another license or permit to sell cigarettes or tobacco products even though one is already required by the State?
  14. Do I have to apply separately for my local county or city license? How do I do that?

  1. Do I need a license to sell cigarettes and/or tobacco products?

Yes, you must have a license to sell cigarettes and tobacco products to the public from a retail location. There are severe penalties of up to $5,000, or up to one year imprisonment in the county jail, or both the fine and imprisonment if you are caught selling cigarettes or tobacco products without a license (Business and Professions Code sections 22972 (a), 22980.1 (h) and 22981).

  1. How do I apply for a license to sell cigarettes and tobacco products?

You may register for a permit, license, or account using online registration. Online registration is the convenient way to register and is available 24 hours a day.

  1. What is the cost of the license?

The retailer license costs $100 per location. The cost is a one-time fee (Business and Professions Code sections 22972 (a) and 22973 (d)).

  1. Do I need a separate license for each of my stores, or is one license for all of my stores sufficient?

You must obtain a license for each retail location you own or operate. For example, if you operate several different stores and each sells cigarettes or tobacco products, you must obtain a separate license for each store location. However, you may submit a single application for multiple licenses, and include $100 for each location's license (Business and Professions Code section 22972 (a)).

  1. Do I have to renew my license?

Yes. The license must be renewed annually, but there is no additional cost associated with the renewal (Business and Professions Code sections 22972 (d) and 22973 (d)(2)). However, if you fail to renew your license timely and allow your license to expire, you will be required to pay a reinstatement fee of $100.00 as a precondition for reinstatement. Please remember that you may not sell cigarette and/or tobacco products without a valid Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retail License.

  1. Can our corporate office apply for licenses for all of our store locations, or does each store have to apply separately?

A corporate office may submit a single application for all of its stores, but the appropriate information (addresses, etc.) must be stated on the application along with the submission of the $100 fee for each store (Business and Professions Code sections 22972 (a) and 22973 (a)).

  1. Do I have to display the license?

Yes. Business and Professions Code section 22972 (b) requires retailers to conspicuously display their license at each retail location in a manner visible to the public. If retailers fail to display the license, they are liable for a penalty of $500 (Business and Professions Code section 22974.5) and their license may ultimately be subject to suspension and revocation.

  1. Who is enforcing this law?

The State Board of Equalization, the Office of the Attorney General and any law enforcement officer in the state has enforcement authority.

  1. Who will be checking to see if I have a license?

Licensing will be monitored by the State Board of Equalization, the Department of Health Services, as well as local authorities.

  1. What will happen if I do not obtain a license?

If you do not obtain a license and continue to sell cigarettes or tobacco products, you will be subject to fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to one year, or both the fine and imprisonment (Business and Professions Code sections 22980.1 (h) and 22981).

  1. What types of products are covered under the law?

You must obtain a license if you sell any type of tobacco products (Business and Professions Code sections 22972 (a)). These include cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, etc., as defined by Revenue and Taxation Code sections 30003 and 30121(a)(b).

  1. What are the requirements for cigarettes and tobacco wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers or importers that impact retailers?

Pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 22980.1, no cigarette manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler or importer is permitted to sell or distribute cigarettes or tobacco products to retailers who are not licensed or have had their license suspended or revoked. Additionally, retailers are not permitted to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products from an unlicensed cigarette or tobacco wholesaler, distributor or importer. Retailers that fail to comply with these requirements are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 for each offense, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both the fine and imprisonment (Business and Professions Code section 22981). Additionally, failure to comply with these provisions is a misdemeanor under Revenue and Taxation Code section 30478.

  1. Can a city or county require a retailer to obtain another license or permit to sell cigarettes or tobacco products even though one is already required by the State?

Yes. Business and Professions Code section 22971.3 permits cities and counties to enact local tobacco retail licensing requirements that may include annual fees and provide for the suspension or revocation of the local license for any violation of a State tobacco control law.

  1. Do I have to apply separately for my local county or city license? How do I do that?

Prospective licensees should consult with their local health department to determine if there is a local licensing requirement in their community and learn how to comply with its requirements.