Licensing Tobacco Retailers to Protect Kids

Curb youth tobacco use by cracking down on illegal sales

Research shows that nearly 80 percent of all smokers begin by age 18 – even though it is illegal to sell tobacco to minors.1


How does this happen?

Shockingly, a survey of Colorado public school students found that 68 percent of youth who attempted to buy tobacco were successful.2 In addition, 57 percent of Colorado high school students reported that tobacco is easy or very easy to get.2 Young people who perceive tobacco as easy to get are more likely to become tobacco users.3


Why is it so easy for minors to illegally buy tobacco?

Currently only half of known retailers are checked every year by state-level enforcement. That makes it harder to know when retailers are selling to minors, and impossible to consistently enforce the age laws Colorado already has in place.

So while many tobacco retailers follow the law without a license, those that sell tobacco products illegally to minors face limited consequences. Research shows that meaningful penalties paired with increased inspections lead to reduced sales to young people. 4


What’s the solution?

Implement a tobacco retailer licensing policy* in your community. Licensing tobacco retailers reduces illegal sales to kids by ensuring consistent local enforcement of the law and education for retailers. This creates a level playing field for everyone who sells tobacco.


But will it really be effective?

Studies say so. On average, Colorado communities with local tobacco retailer licensing reduced sales to minors by 76 percent.2 This is according to data provided after several Colorado communities implemented a retailer licensing policy.

A great way to reduce tobacco’s deadly toll is to stop kids from ever starting to use it. A tobacco retailer licensing policy in your community is a big step in the right direction.


Other options for communities with licenses in place

Passing a tobacco retailer license sets communities up for success in passing a variety of additional policies by providing an enforcement mechanism. Options include raising the age of tobacco sale to 21, restricting flavors, reducing the number of retailers close to schools and more.

* A state law financially penalizes local communities in Colorado that create licensing requirements for cigarette retailers; however, local governments can license retailers of other types of tobacco without penalty.


1. The Path to Tobacco Addiction Starts at Very Young Ages, Tobacco Free Kids, 2017. Retreived from
2. Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, Colorado School of Public Health, 2017. Retreived from
3. Doubeni, C. A., Li, W., Fouayzi, H., & Difranza, J. R. (2008). Perceived Accessibility as a Predictor of Youth Smoking. The Annals of Family Medicine, 6(4), 323-330. doi:10.1370/afm.841
4. Point of Sale Strategies a Tobacco Control Guide. (2014). Retrieved September 20, 2016, from