Cigarette & Tobacco Products Licensing Registration and Renewal Information

Who is required to register?

The Cigarette and Tobacco Products Licensing Act (Assembly Bill 71 [Chapter 890, Statutes 2003]) (Licensing Act) was enacted on October 12, 2003. The Licensing Act imposes licensing requirements on all retailers, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, and importers of cigarettes and tobacco products. A cigarette and tobacco products license is required in addition to other permits, accounts, and licenses that may be required depending on your business operations. The Licensing Act is intended to decrease tax evasion on the sales of cigarettes and tobacco products in California, has provisions for recordkeeping requirements, inspections, and seizures of any untaxed cigarettes or tobacco products, and imposes civil and criminal penalties for violations. Visit the Cigarette and Tobacco Products Tax Guide for more information about the cigarette and tobacco products licensing and tax program.

Retailers of cigarettes and tobacco products in California (as defined in section 22971(p) of the Business and Professions Code) must have a Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retailer's License. As of June 9, 2016, state law expanded the definition of a tobacco product for cigarette and tobacco products retail licensing purposes to include nicotine products, electronic nicotine or other vaporized liquid delivery devices, and any component, part, or accessory of a tobacco product. Effective January 1, 2017, any retailer that sells any product included in the expanded definition of tobacco products is required to obtain and maintain a Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retailer's License from the BOE in order to engage in the retail sale of these products. If you have a vending machine from which retail sales of cigarettes or tobacco products are made, you must have a separate retailer's license for each vending machine. A retailer's license is valid for a 12-month period, is not assignable or transferable, and must be renewed annually. A license fee payment is required for each retail location at initial registration, every year at the time of renewal, and may not be prorated. Prospective licensees should consult with their local health department before applying for a California Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retailer's License to determine if there is a local licensing requirement in their community and to learn how to comply with its requirements. In some cases, local licensing requirements may be more restrictive than state licensing requirements. Please remember that you may not sell cigarettes and/or other tobacco products without a valid Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retailer's License.

Wholesalers and distributors of cigarettes and tobacco products (as defined in section 30016 and 30011 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, respectively) are also required to obtain and maintain a license to engage in the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in California. If you purchase tax-paid cigarettes or other tobacco products for resale, you must obtain a wholesaler's license. If you purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products from an out-of-state seller who does not have a distributor's license issued under the Licensing Act, you must obtain a distributor's license. If you have a distributor's license, you do not need a wholesaler's license. A wholesaler or distributor's license is valid for a calendar year period, is not assignable or transferable, and must be renewed annually. A license fee payment is required for each location at initial registration, every year at the time of renewal, and may not be prorated.

In accordance with the Licensing Act, every manufacturer and importer of cigarettes and/or tobacco products is required to register online and submit a license fee in order to obtain a license from the Board of Equalization (BOE) to engage in the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products in California. The license fee of a manufacturer or importer of cigarettes is a one-time administration fee commensurate with their respective market share. The BOE will notify each cigarette manufacturer or importer of the fee amount due. A manufacturer or importer of chewing tobacco or snuff is required to submit a one-time license fee payment of ten thousand dollars ($10,000). A manufacturer or importer of tobacco products, excluding chewing tobacco or snuff, is required to submit a one-time license fee payment of two thousand dollars ($2,000). However, the one-time license fee payment for a manufacturer or importer of tobacco products is limited to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

All new applicants must register with us online for each location to engage in the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products.

See our rates page for all cigarette and tobacco products license fee amounts.

Visit the Cigarette and Tobacco Products Tax Guide for more information about the cigarette and tobacco products tax and licensing program.

Retailers of Cigarettes and Tobacco Products – Product Transfers Between Multiple Locations

If you are a retailer of cigarettes and tobacco products operating multiple retail locations in California and hold a Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retailer's License for each location, we recognize there are occasions when transfers of cigarettes or tobacco products between your retail stores take place. However, a transfer of products between your retail stores is permitted only in specific instances.

A retailer with multiple retail locations may transfer product from one location to another only when the retailer is the legal owner of both retail locations, there is documentation to prove that the product is tax-paid, and the documentation is made available to BOE staff during an inspection. In order to prove that the transferred product is tax-paid, the retailer must provide at the time of inspection (1) a copy of the original purchase invoice(s); (2) legible records showing the name, address, and cigarette and tobacco products license number of each retail location; (3) the date the transfer took place; (4) a detailed description of the items transferred, including the brand, packaging, flavor, and style; and (5) the number of items transferred. The description must exactly match the description on the original purchase invoice(s) and the number of items transferred cannot exceed the number of items on the original purchase invoice(s). Without this documentation available at the time of inspection, it is not possible to establish that the product is tax-paid and the product is subject to seizure. Sales of cigarettes and tobacco products between retailers are prohibited. These requirements do not apply to tobacco products that are not subject to the tobacco products tax. For example, vape liquids that do not contain any nicotine are not subject to these requirements; however, they are subject to retail licensing.

Please refer to Publication 78, Sales of Cigarettes and Tobacco Products in California, for additional information in regard to the transfer of product between retail locations.

Register Online

Register for any accounts, licenses, or permits through our online registration. Online registration is the convenient way to register and is available 24 hours a day. Upon registration, you will be required to pay the applicable license fees.

Renewals

Retailers, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, and/or importers of cigarettes and tobacco products must renew their license for each of their locations annually using our online registration system. Retailers, wholesalers, and distributors must pay an annual license renewal fee per location to renew their cigarette and tobacco products license, and the fee may not be prorated. A retailer that adds an additional retail location will renew the retailer's license for that retail location based on a 12-month period beginning in the month the retailer's license for the first retail location was obtained. There is no charge to renew a cigarette and tobacco products manufacturer and/or importer's license.

Contact Us

If you have questions regarding this program, please contact the Business Tax and Fee Department at the following address or telephone number:
Business Tax and Fee Department, MIC: 88
State Board of Equalization
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0088

Telephone 1-800-400-7115
(TTY: 711)