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How to Apply For a Tobacco Retail License

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The sale of tobacco products is regulated at the federal and state level, and tobacco products are one of the most heavily taxed consumer products in the U.S. The high tax rates are typically justified as discouraging consumption and by pointing to the high health care costs associated with tobacco use, especially smoking. Retail businesses who sell tobacco are required to have a tobacco sales permit in addition to a retail sales permit.

State Regulations

Research the requirements for retailers who sell tobacco in your state. The state comptroller or the Department of Revenue handle tobacco licenses and permits in most states. Specific requirements for a retail tobacco sales permit vary by state, but in general include filling out an application, a background check and paying a fee.


Download an application for a retail tobacco sales permit or complete an online application. Personal biographical information, including your social security number, as well as information regarding financial relationships among owners, is required on most applications. Annually renewable retail tobacco sales permits cost $20 in Hawaii while they are good for two years and cost $180 in Texas. You must have a separate permit for every retail location that sells tobacco, including vending machines.

Required Record-Keeping

A retailer is required to maintain records of tobacco products bought or received, including the manufacturer's listed net weight for each individual package for sale. All records must be safely stored at one location, and must be maintained for four years. Retailers are also responsible for keeping track of tobacco products sold, as well as collecting and remitting applicable state and local sales taxes.


Retail tobacco sales permits typically have to be renewed annually or once every two years. No further application is required; you just send in the required renewal fees and your permit is automatically renewed in most cases. Most states pro rate the fees for the first year of a retail tobacco sales permit, so as to get all retailers on track for renewal at the same time.


Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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