Getting a Tobacco License: Texas Laws and Regulations
If you’re considering opening a tobacco shop in Texas, you’ll need more than a great location and a can-do attitude. Before you can open up shop, you’ll need the right licenses and permits.
If you skip out on licensing, you’ll face consequences like hefty fines, store closure, or even jail time. Still, getting the proper tobacco license for your Texas tobacco shop can feel intimidating — but it doesn’t have to be. You can submit your applications and get your store up and running with the correct information.
This post covers all things for tobacco licensing in Texas. We’ll discuss specific state regulations, how to get your license, and answer some FAQs.
Tobacco License: Texas Basics
Tobacco licenses are, simply put, the authorization to sell tobacco products in your state or locality.
Historically, Texas maintained relatively few restrictions on tobacco sales for much of the 20th century, other than tax regulations. However, recognizing tobacco’s health hazards, from cancer to cardiovascular disease, the state implemented stricter youth access prevention laws starting in the 1990s. Texas now actively regulates tobacco retailing to discourage underage usage and addiction.
Who Needs a Tobacco License in Texas?
Do you need a tobacco license for your business? If you’re located in Texas and want to sell tobacco or smoking-related products, you will need to obtain a Texas tobacco retailer permit. This blanket requirement applies equally to convenience stores, smoke shops, grocery outlets, gas stations, and any other entities providing tobacco to consumers.
Vendors with temporary sales operations at special events or fairgrounds must also obtain this licensing before opening shop. Even online tobacco sellers storing inventory locally or shipping directly to Texas customers need proper permitting from the state.
Acquiring the mandatory tobacco retail permit entails submitting an application demonstrating you can legally operate in Texas, providing business data, and paying the appropriate fees. Once permitted, retailers must comply with various sales regulations like age verification and keeping permits publicly displayed.
How To Apply for a Texas Tobacco License
You can apply for your Texas tobacco license following a simple, three-step process.
1. Prepare Required Documents
Before completing your application, prepare the documents required by the State of Texas for tobacco licensure, including:
- Business identification
- Sales tax permit
- Employer identification number (EIN)
- Personal identification details
2. Complete Application Form
Next, access the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website and review the application form. Fill out all fields accurately and completely, and be prepared to submit this application alongside your prepared documents.
3. Pay Application Fee
Finally, pay your application fee. You can pay your fee either online or by mail. Fees may vary based on the type of permit and local regulations, so ensure your provided payment aligns with the type of license you're applying for.
As a note, you’ll also need to be aware of additional tobacco sales requirements and regulations. For example, the Cigars and Tobacco Products Tax. Please review the Texas Comptroller’s resources to ensure you have all appropriate approvals and documents for your shop.
Related Read: 104 Small Business Resources & Tools You Need This Year
E-Cigarette Regulations in Texas
If you are considering selling e-cigarette or vapor products in your store, you should consider the e-cigarette regulations impacting the state of Texas. Let’s examine a few applicable laws:
- Legal Age for Purchase
Texas law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products to individuals under 21 years of age. Retailers must verify the age of customers attempting to purchase these products by checking a valid, government-issued photo ID before completing the sale. Violating Texas' minimum legal sales age for vapes and e-cigarettes risks facing penalties and fines, with repeated violations resulting in potential permit suspension or revocation.
- Marketing and Advertising Restrictions:
Regulations in Texas restrict marketing and advertising vaping merchandise directly toward individuals below the legal sales age. Strategies explicitly targeting minors, as well as content and messaging deemed appealing specifically to youth, are not allowed. Advertisements cannot present vaping as glamorous or risk-free behavior.
- Licensing and Permits
Texas categorizes e-cigarettes and vaping devices as tobacco products under state law. All businesses offering vapes, e-liquids, or similar merchandise must adhere to tobacco licensing requirements through the Texas Comptroller's Office. This includes submitting permit applications, paying associated fees, renewing licenses, and prominently displaying current permits on premises per regulations. Failure to acquire and maintain permits treats vape sales as illegal tobacco transactions subject to legal penalties.
Texas Tobacco License FAQs
How much is a tobacco license?
Acquiring a tobacco retail permit in Texas costs $180 for new applicants. Renewals cost $100 per biennial term. Some municipalities add local licensing fees. Overall costs typically range from $200 to $2,000, covering state and local permissions for two years of operations.
How often is a tobacco license renewal?
Texas mandates renewing tobacco retail permits every two years to maintain compliance. Failing to renew licenses on schedule risks disruption or penalties, so merchants should track renewal dates. Many attempt to submit applications 60 to 90 days before their end date, ensuring there is plenty of time for their renewal to process before their license expires.
Related Read: Tobacco and Vape Shop Management: 5 Pro Tips
What are the penalties for non-compliance?
Violating Texas tobacco sales regulations triggers fines starting at $500, with repeat violations incurring charges up to $5,000. Egregious noncompliance could also prompt permit suspension or complete revocation alongside court-ordered injunctions. Unpermitted tobacco sales may warrant charges like tax evasion, too.
Can you sell tobacco online with a tobacco license?
Yes, Texas’ tobacco retail permit allows online tobacco sales when paired with supplemental permitting from the state comptroller’s office. This requires submitting a separate application and paying a $20 fee to conduct online tobacco commerce legally.
Do you need a license to sell vapes?
Selling vapor products requires the same Texas tobacco retail permitting as traditional cigarettes and tobacco merchandise. The state categorizes vapes, e-liquids, and similar products as tobacco items needing regulation. So, vape shops and stores selling vapes must carry tobacco retail permits even without offering conventional tobacco goods.
Beyond the Tobacco License: Texas Tobacco Shop Operations
The information in this post can help you uncover the steps you must take to legally open a tobacco or smoke shop in Texas. However, if you want to run a successful tobacco store, you need more than just the proper licenses.
You need tools and systems to run your smoke shop profitably and efficiently. The most important tool in your arsenal is your point of sale (POS) solution.
Cigars POS may be the solution for you if you’re looking for a point of sale system made for smoke shops with features like carton-pack inventory and age verification. Cigars POS also offers integrations for e-commerce, giving you the features you need to manage online and in-store sales.
Schedule a demo today to see Cigars POS in action and get expert advice on setting up the perfect POS for your Texas tobacco shop.