California Cigarette & Tobacco Products Licensing Act of 2003 – Tobacco Products Manufacturer's and Importer's License FAQs

Who is required to obtain and maintain a Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer's License?

The law requires all manufacturers and/or importers of tobacco products to obtain and maintain a license under the California Cigarette and Tobacco Products Licensing Act of 2003 (Licensing Act) to engage in the sale of tobacco products.
In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 56, which amended the definition of "tobacco products," under the California Cigarette and Tobacco Products Tax Law (Revenue and Taxation Code 30121), to include new tobacco products (identified as "New!" below). Beginning April 1, 2017, the distribution of these new tobacco products will be subject to the tobacco products tax. Tobacco products1 include, but are not limited to:

  • Cigars
  • Little cigars (little cigars were previously considered cigarettes and required a cigarette tax stamp prior to the passage of Proposition 56; however, beginning April 1, 2017, little cigars will be taxed as a tobacco product) New!
  • Smoking or pipe tobacco (including shisha)
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Snuff
  • Any product containing, made of, or derived from any amount of tobacco that is intended for human consumption (prior to the passage of Proposition 56, tobacco products, other than cigars, smoking or chewing tobacco, or snuff, had to contain at least 50 percent tobacco) New!
  • Any product containing, made of, or derived from any amount of nicotine2 that is intended for human consumption and sold with or without a delivery device or system New!
  • Electronic cigarettes3 or any device or delivery system sold in combination with nicotine New!
  • Any component, part, or accessory of an electronic cigarette that is used during the operation of the device, when sold in combination with nicotine (for example, a battery used in the operation of the device sold with nicotine) New!

1 Tobacco products do not include cigarettes. Tobacco products do not include any product that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for sale as a tobacco cessation product or for other therapeutic purposes (for example, nicotine patches) where that product is marketed and sold solely for such approved use.
2 Nicotine does not include any food products as defined in Revenue and Taxation Code 6359.
3 Electronic cigarettes do not include any delivery devices (for example, eCigarettes or vape pens) sold individually or with a liquid or substance containing 0mg nicotine and are not considered tobacco products.

What are the requirements to obtain and maintain a Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer's License?

In order to be eligible for obtaining and maintaining a license, a manufacturer or importer is required to do all of the following in the manner specified by the Board of Equalization (BOE):

  • Register for a license using online registration.
  • Submit to the BOE a list of all tobacco products they manufacture or import.
  • Update the list of all tobacco products they manufacture or import whenever a new or additional product is manufactured or imported or a listed product is no longer manufactured or imported.
  • Consent to jurisdiction of the California courts for the purpose of enforcement of this division and appoint a registered agent for service of process in this state and identify the registered agent to the BOE.
  • File a monthly report with the BOE, in a manner specified by the BOE, which may be, but is not limited to, electronic media.

Is there a fee for a Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer's License?

Yes. A manufacturer or importer of chewing tobacco or snuff is required to submit an application with a one-time license fee of ten thousand dollars ($10,000). A manufacturer or importer of tobacco products, excluding chewing tobacco or snuff, is required to submit an application with a one-time license fee of two thousand dollars ($2,000). The one-time license fee for a manufacturer or importer of both chewing tobacco/snuff and other tobacco products is limited to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

How do I apply for a Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer's License?

Register for a license through our online registration. Online registration is the convenient way to register and is available 24 hours a day.

Will I need to apply for any other permits?

You may also need to obtain a seller's permit and/or distributor's account/license from the BOE's Business Tax and Fee Department before we can issue your manufacturer/importer's license. For more information, call our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711) and select the "Special Taxes and Fees" option. Customer service representatives are available weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Pacific time), except state holidays. You may also need to comply with the Master Settlement Agreement or related statutes.

What are the filing requirements?

As a manufacturer and/or importer, you are required to file monthly reports with us. The reports must include:

  • A list of all licensed distributors that received the manufacturer's or importer's tobacco products.
  • The total wholesale cost of the products.
  • Other information, as requested by the BOE.
  • Manufacturers and importers of tobacco products will be subject to the same invoicing and record-keeping requirements, and penalty provisions for violations of the Licensing Act as manufacturers and importers of cigarettes, as provided in existing law.