Tobacco Retail Licensing

What is tobacco retail licensing?

Tobacco retail licenses are issued at the state level through the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration. Many counties and cities also have local ordinances requiring a license to sell tobacco products. In California, at least 219 cities and counties have local tobacco retail licensing ordinances. These ordinances help to provide the local structure for enforcement, as well as funding for tobacco retailer education and compliance checks.

Why would tobacco retail licensing be good for Humboldt County?

In Humboldt County, 34% of all deaths are attributed to tobacco use according to the Humboldt County Lung, Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Tobacco Use Mortality Data Report(PDF). This is a tremendous loss for our community, and it is preventable. Policies like tobacco retail licensing give jurisdictions a way to control the availability of tobacco products to protect the public’s health. According to the Surgeon General, tobacco retail licensing is an effective way to reduce tobacco use. Reducing access to tobacco reduces tobacco use among youth and adults. 

In Humboldt County, 39% of high school students report having used a commercial tobacco product in their lifetime, according to the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) 2019-2021 (PDF). According to CHKS, 25% of ninth graders have used a vape product, and 67% of 11th graders stated it was fairly easy to obtain e-cigarette products.
In Humboldt County, tobacco smoking causes or contributes to 34% of all deaths  25% of Humboldt County ninth graders have ever used vape products.  67% of Humboldt eleventh graders report it is "fairly" or "very easy" to obtain vape (e-cigarette) products.In a recent youth purchase survey in unincorporated Humboldt County, underaged individuals reported that they were able to purchase tobacco products at more than 50% of the stores where they attempted to make purchases. Information provided by Tobacco-Free North Coast & Communities Against Nicotine with the Health and Social Policy Institute (HASPI). Download NorCal4Health's PDF flyer here
Underage Sales Rates Across the County: In 2022, the youth between the ages of 18-20 were sent into local stores to see if they could purchase tobacco in youth purchase surveys.   54% in unincorporated Humboldt. 50% in Ferndale, 47% in Arcata, 67% in Fortuna.
Local enforcement allows for better compliance with current laws such as selling tobacco to youth under age 21 or selling flavored tobacco products, which are now illegal to sell in the state of California per SB 793.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors enacted a Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance on July 11, 2023, for unincorporated Humboldt County. The purpose of this ordinance is to reduce the availability of tobacco for youth in the community and enforce local, state and federal tobacco laws.

The ordinance prohibits tobacco retailers from selling tobacco products within unincorporated Humboldt County without first obtaining a valid tobacco retailer’s license.

View the Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance here (PDF).

As of December 20, 2019, the federal age of sale for tobacco products is 21 with no exemption for military personnel.

You can download the Age of Sale Warning Sign PDF here.

This age-of-sale sign meets legal requirements for the wording, font size and size of the sign. Printing Instructions: Please print this sign at 100%. Do not reduce or enlarge the size of this sign. This sign is 8.5” wide by 3.66” high. Do not print this sign using the “Fit”, ”Shrink oversized pages” or “Custom Scale” options in the print dialogue box. Download and post this sign at each cash register. This is a temporary sign to be used until the printed signs are mailed to you or an educator provides one to you. If you need a sign, please contact Tobacco-Free Humboldt at or call 707-268-2132.  
PDF: The Sale of Tobacco Products to Persons Under 21 Years of Age Is Prohibited by Law and Subject to Penalties To Report an Unlawful Tobacco Sale Call1-800-5 ASK-4-ID Valid Identification May Be Required Business and Professions Code Section 22952 21 U.S.C 387f(d)This sign must be readable by the consumer and must not be altered, covered or obliterated in whole or in part • Open camera or QR code reader on your smartphone. • Hold your smartphone over QR Code so that it’s clearly visible within camera screen. • Look for the notification banner or tap to trigger code’s action.