Sales Restrictions

One of the most insidious revelations in the monumental 2006 federal racketeering lawsuit against the commercial tobacco industry, U.S. v. Philip Morris, was the extent to which different tobacco companies at different times over the last fifty years intentionally marketed to children under the age of twenty-one with the express purpose of recruiting “replacement smokers” to ensure the economic future of the industry. 

The targeting of minors, via advertisements and promotions, has been a longstanding strategy of the industry, and the focus of much legislation, regulation, and litigation. The 1998 Minnesota and Master Tobacco Settlements, and the federal legislation regulating tobacco, all restrict marketing, including advertising and sponsorship activities, that targets children. To date, despite legal and regulatory measures, the tobacco industry continually finds ways to attract children to its products – such as smokeless tobacco products that resemble gumdrops, candy or fruit-flavored products – via avenues such as online marketing. 

Another common industry tactic is the false marketing of products, such as “low tar / light” cigarettes, as less harmful than full-flavor cigarettes. Rulings in class actions against tobacco companies for misleading customers in “light” or “low yield” cigarette promotions have signaled judicial impatience with this type of deceptive advertising.


Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).

Internet Sales

Online Sales of E-Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products (2019)

Updated overview of state and federal laws and other measures to prevent the online sale of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as the purchase by young people.

E-Cig Charging in a Computer

Online E-Cigarette Sales & Shipments to Consumers: State Laws Prohibiting Them (2019)

A snapshot of state laws that prohibit online direct-to-consumer sales and shipments of electronic cigarettes. Laws in effect as of December 1, 2019.

Flavored Tobacco and Hookah

U.S. Sales Restrictions on Flavored Tobacco Products (2020)

Examples from select U.S. jurisdictions that restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, including excerpts from legislation and information on legal challenges.

Older resources can be found in our Sales Restrictions resource archive.