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How To Become a Tobacconist: 9 Tips and Resources

Do you want to turn your passion for tobacco into a thriving business?

Perhaps you’ve marveled at the knowledge and expertise of the tobacconist in your favorite smoke shop — and now you want a piece of the action. Well, before you even think about opening your tobacco store, you need to make sure you’re ready.

That means ready to choose the right mix of quality products, provide excellent customer service, and guide tobacco users with knowledge and confidence.

This article highlights the exact steps to take to become a tobacconist, from understanding tobacco’s rich history to gaining hands-on experience and everything in between — we’ve got you covered.

How To Become a Tobacconist: The Skinny

When you open a tobacco shop, your customers will look to you for knowledge and recommendations. The way to give them what they need is to become an expert.

Let’s get into our first tip.

First Things First: Get Educated

The first step to becoming a tobacconist is education — it’s what separates a true tobacconist from an average smoke shop employee.

Start with learning all you can about tobacco types. From cigarettes to cigars and pipe tobacco to smokeless options, each has its own characteristics and appeal. This will come in handy when you’re opening your store. When you know what your local area is calling out for, you’ll be well-prepared to provide the products they want.

Related Read: Smoke Shop Product List: 23 Products Every Smoke Shop Needs

For example, if opening a cigar store is the right move, you need to know the differences and nuances between a mild, light-bodied cigar and a full-bodied, robust smoke. You’ll also need to research premium and specialty cigars that will help set your smoke shop apart.


  • The Tobacconist University offers four Certified Tobacconist degrees. You can become a Certified Retail Tobacconist and work your way up to a Master Tobacconist. To get to the top level, you must prove hundreds of hours of apprenticeship with certified retailers and cigar makers.
  • The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) offers live events, seminars, webinars, and on-demand courses for retailers and employees. It follows the Tobacconist University curriculum and also offers education around new laws and regulations to help you stay compliant.

Gaining these industry-recognized certifications helps prove your expertise. They help you stand out, and customers will know they’re in good hands. 

Invest In Hands-On Tobacco Experience

Next up is gaining hands-on experience. Knowledge is one thing, but learning from professionals in their own environment is a great way to expand your potential.

Consider an internship at a local tobacco store. You'll work alongside professional tobacconists, seeing how they do things, soaking up their knowledge, and experiencing what it’s like to work in the industry. You’ll also learn how to run a shop, from inventory management to customer service.

If you can, find a store with a thriving customer base. What sets them apart? Is it their products? Pricing? Or are they known for their expertise and customer loyalty? Surround yourself with people who have skin in the game.

Learn how to:

  • Properly store and rotate inventory, especially for premium products
  • Handle delicate cigars and pipes without damaging them
  • Talk to customers, upsell, cross-sell, and provide excellent service
  • Arrange cigars in humidors and create eye-catching displays
  • Run events for cigar tastings and product launches

…and more. There’s no substitute for gaining hands-on experience.

Develop Your Key Skills

Alongside learning how to become a tobacconist from the best, you also need to develop your key skills.

Running a business is tough, especially in an industry with changing laws and regulations. Let’s look at a few topics you should invest time in:

  • Customer service: Your customers expect the same level of service every time they come into your store. Learn how to create an inviting atmosphere and always be ready to answer questions that help customers choose the right products.
  • Financial management: For accounting purposes, you should know how to track income and expenses, manage your cash flow, and keep accurate financial records. Payment processing is also a hot topic — you’ll need to partner with a high-risk payment processor.
  • Inventory management: Your smoke shop will offer a wide variety of products, and manually tracking all of them won’t cut it. Research inventory management software or an industry-specific point of sale (POS) solution with built-in inventory management. These tools provide real-time inventory management, so you never run out of bestselling products.
  • Marketing: Advertising tobacco and other smoke shop products can be tricky. You must be aware and vigilant about not advertising to minors and ensure you don’t mislead customers about ingredients, safety, or health effects. To market your store effectively, consider in-store promotions, social media, and influencer partnerships.
  • Compliance: We touched on compliance around marketing, but there are various laws, rules, and regulations to consider. Federal and state governments tightly restrict smoke shop sales, and new products, such as vapes and e-liquids, are a legal gray area. Find out which licenses you need to sell tobacco products legally, and make sure you’re always up to date.

There are various resources for learning how to open a successful business. Check out these articles:


Continue Your Education

Even once you’ve earned your certifications and opened your smoke shop, learning never stops. Continuing your education can set you apart from other tobacconists. Here’s how to stay ahead:

  • Stay updated on industry trends and products by reading trade publications, following industry blogs and social media accounts, and checking for news and updates.
  • Attend trade shows and conferences. These events have workshops, seminars, and networking opportunities that you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Join professional associations like the Premium Cigar Association we mentioned earlier.

Learning how to become a tobacconist is an ongoing pursuit. The more you put in, the more you get out. It will help you stay competitive and provide the best service for loyal customers.

How To Become a Tobacconist: Next Steps

We’ve covered a lot of ground. Let’s recap the key tips:

  • Learn everything you can about tobacco — especially if you’re going to specialize in a specific type.
  • Get hands-on experience. Work in a successful tobacco shop and learn from the people who do what you want to do.
  • Develop your key skills so that when it comes to opening your own business, you can hit the ground running.
  • Continue learning — knowledge is power.

Once you’re ready to open your own smoke shop, you need the right tools. One such tool is a tobacco point of sale system. A good POS system tracks inventory, provides reports that help run your business, helps create a top customer experience, and makes compliance easy.

Cigars POS is here for all your point of sale needs. You can build your own system or schedule a demo to see our POS system in action.

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