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Preventing Youth Access to Tobacco: Information for Tobacco Retailers

The Delaware Youth Access law prohibits sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. A copy of the law is available on the website of the Delaware General Assembly.

Image: Logo 'Kids Can't Buy 'Em Here'

The Youth Access Law is enforced by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement. Since 2000, tobacco enforcement agents have been distributing educational packets to all tobacco retailers in Delaware, with the theme "Kids Can’t Buy ’Em Here." If you would like to request a packet, please contact the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement.

Key Elements of the Delaware Law

Delaware law requires persons engaged in the sale or distribution of tobacco products to display a notice stating that:

  • Sale of tobacco products — and "tobacco substitutes" (e-cigarettes) — to persons under 18 years of age is illegal
  • Purchase by anyone under 18 years of age is illegal
  • Violations will be subject to fines; and
  • Persons selling tobacco products are required by law to demand proof of age from persons under 27 attempting to purchase tobacco products (2009 amendment to the law)
  • Failure to post the required notice subjects the owner of licensed tobacco retailers to a fine of $100.

NOTE:  The Delaware law was amended in 2014 to include "tobacco substitutes," which is the legal term in Delaware for e-cigarettes. It is illegal to sell or provide free samples or coupons for e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. A PDF copy of the amendment is available here for reference.

The required notice must now also be posted on tobacco vending machines (2009 amendment).

In establishments where persons under the age of 18 are permitted, the sale of tobacco products must be "under the control" of the cashier or other store employee. "Under the control" means customers cannot readily access the tobacco products without the assistance of a cashier or other employee. A display that holds tobacco products behind locked doors is considered "under the control" of a cashier or other employee. This means that tobacco products cannot be on shelves or displays where a customer can pick up the products.

Vending Machines, Samples, and Single Sales

photo: cigarette vending machineDelaware law prohibits the distribution of tobacco products through vending machines in public places with the exception of bars, tobacco shops, and premises in which persons under 18 years of age are prohibited by law from entering. In these locations, the law requires that vending machines be located at least 25 feet from any entrance and be directly visible to the owner or supervisor.

It is illegal for any person to distribute tobacco product samples or e-cigarette samples or coupons for subsequent receipt of free or discounted tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18 years.

Tobacco products can be sold only in sealed packages provided by the manufacturer with the required health warning and tax stamp. It is also illegal to distribute any pack of cigarettes containing fewer than 20 cigarettes.


The fine for sale or delivery of tobacco products to a minor, or for providing samples or coupons to a minor, is $250 for the first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense. A second or subsequent offense is one that occurs within 12 months of a previous offense.

In addition to a fine, upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense, the Court may order the suspension of a license to sell tobacco products for a period not to exceed 6 months.

The owner, proprietor, franchisee, store manager or other person in charge of the premises is liable for violations committed by their employees.

Tips To Avoid Selling
Tobacco Products To Minors

Anyone selling tobacco products is required by state law to check IDs of anyone purchasing tobacco products whom the clerk believes to be under 27 years old. Valid forms of identification include a driver’s license, State ID card, military ID and/or a passport.

Be aware of the birth date for legal purchase of tobacco products. Take the current year minus 18 years. Example: If the current date is November 21, 2009, 2009 - 18 = 1991. You may sell products to anyone with a birthday on or before November 21, 1991.

Be prepared to handle situations that may occur. Think about how you will handle them.

A written note from a parent or other adult to purchase tobacco products is not acceptable. Remind the minor that the person purchasing the tobacco products must be at least 18 years of age and must have ID.

It is not acceptable for a minor to buy a tobacco product for anyone else. Again, remind them that the person purchasing the tobacco products must be at least 18 years of age and must have ID.

Young cashiers may know an individual or group of students from their school who want to purchase tobacco products. They may tell the cashier that it's cool to sell to them; no one will ever know. An agent may be watching; and state law requires a $250 fine for the first time you sell tobacco products illegally.

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