Personal Health Care
  YOUTH access prevention  

The Youth Access Law prohibits minors from purchasing or possessing tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chew, pipes, bidis, etc. This law also restricts tobacco coupons and vending machine locations and requires tobacco retailers to have a license to hand out tobacco samples. Enforcement of the youth access law is required (RCW 70.155).

The law reads:

  • Any person who sells or gives, or permits to be sold or given to any person under the age of eighteen years any cigar, cigarette, cigarette paper or wrapper, or tobacco in any form is guilty of a gross misdemeanor (RCW 26.28.080).

The goal of this law is to stop the early initiation of tobacco use.  The average smoker starts smoking at 12 years old. If young people can be prevented from starting to smoke before the legal age of 18, they are less likely to ever start using tobacco. 

To ensure that tobacco retailers are complying with the Youth Access Law, local health departments, along with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, perform youth compliance checks throughout the year. The federal government requires compliance checks to be conducted and if states fall below 80 percent compliant, they may lose federal substance abuse funds. If tobacco retailers are found in violation of the Youth Access Law, they can be fined or have their tobacco license suspended. In order to avoid these penalties, tobacco retailers need to correctly check the identification of anyone who appears younger than age 35.

Know the Law! Check ID! Description


More Information

If you would like more information on the Youth Access Law contact the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Report a Violation

Image:  Tobacco purchase

If you would like to report a violation of the Youth Access Law, please contact the Washington State Liquor Control Enforcement Agency at 360-753-6271 with the date/time of the violation, the name of the store, and address.

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This page last updated: 04/29/17