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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Washington State tobacco laws and regulations

RCW = Revised Code of Washington
WAC = Washington Administrative Code

RCW 70.155 - Access to Minors

  • Restricts coupons: 70.155.070
    Coupons for tobacco products may only be redeemed in an in-person transaction.

  • Tobacco Sampling: 70.155.050
    *Please check with your local city or county since there are some locations that completely prohibit tobacco sampling. A tobacco sampling license is required to distribute samples of tobacco. Sampling may only occur within a location that holds a current cigarette license.

  • Vending Machines: 70.155.030
    Vending machines may only be located in premises where minors under 18 are prohibited and machines must be at least 10 feet from all entrance or exit ways.

  • Purchasing, possessing by persons under eighteen: 70.155.080
    A person under the age of eighteen who purchases or attempts to purchase, possesses, or obtains or attempts to obtain cigarettes or tobacco products commits a class 3 civil infraction and is subject to a fine or participation in up to four hours of community restitution, or both. The court may also require participation in a smoking cessation program. This provision does not apply if a person under the age of eighteen, with parental authorization, is participating in a controlled purchase as part of a liquor control board, law enforcement, or local health department activity.

  • Penalties for Selling to Minors: 70.155.100
    Local health departments, law enforcement, the Liquor Control Board all may conduct compliance checks throughout the year. If caught selling to a minor, the store owner/licensee and clerk are fined.

RCW 70.160 - Smoking in Public Places (formerly Washington State Clean Indoor Air Act)

RCW 26.28.080 - Selling or Giving Tobacco to Minors
  • Summary: RCW 26.28.080
    It is illegal for anyone (including parents) to sell or give tobacco to minors under the age of 18. This also includes: cigars, cigarettes, cigarette paper or wrapper or tobacco in any form.

WAC 314-10 - Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products

Summary: WAC 314-10

It is illegal for anyone (including parents) to sell or give tobacco to minors under the age of 18. This also includes: cigars, cigarettes, cigarette paper or wrapper or tobacco in any form.

How old employees have to be to sell and handle tobacco products: WAC 314-10-040

Any employee can sell and handle tobacco products if there is a supervising employee who is eighteen years of age or older on the retail premises.

Sales to persons under 18 years of age: WAC 314-10-050

Any person attempting to purchase tobacco products must show identification upon the request of any licensed retailer. Acceptable forms of identification must be officially issued and contain the bearer's age, signature and photograph.

The only forms that are acceptable as proof of age for the purchase of tobacco products are:

  • A driver's license, instruction permit or identification card issued by any state within the United States or any province of Canada,
  • A United States military identification card,
  • A passport,
  • A liquor control authority card of identification issued by any state of the United States or any province of Canada, or
  • A merchant marine identification card issued by the United States Coast Guard.

Parents and guardians may not provide tobacco: WAC 314-10-080

Parents and legal guardians may not authorize any minor under 18 years of age to purchase or obtain tobacco.

King County Board of Health

At the December 16, 2010 meeting, the King County Board of Health passed the following regulations in regards to electronic cigarettes:

  1. Prohibits selling electronic cigarettes to minors.
  2. Prohibits offering free or nominal cost electronic cigarettes.
  3. Prohibits electronic cigarette use in all areas where smoking is prohibited by law.

At the September 16, 2010 meeting, The King County Board of Health approved the following:

  1. A resolution that recommends smoke-free policies for publicly and privately owned multifamily housing and includes model language for these policies. At the September meeting, the Board of Health endorsed a model policy for landlords and housing authorities that choose to go smoke-free. The resolution also educates landlords that housing smoke-free policies are legal; this misconception that they are not legal has been a barrier to landlords in the past.

  2. Revisions to the current Board of Health code regarding smoking in public places and places of employment. This code had contained language from Initiative-901 that was passed by voters in 2005. The revisions from the September meeting strengthened the code by:
    • Adding definitions for words like employer and employee.
    • Adopting increased fines for large venues impacting significantly more people than typical establishments.
    • Adopting re-inspection fees for establishments with multiple violations.

Master settlement agreement
  • March 1999. Agreement between state's Attorney General and other representatives finding the fivelargest tobacco companies liable for covering up health problems caused by smoking cigarettes. Tobacco Companies were required to provide money to state governments to help pay for smoking-related medical costs. Tobacco companies are also required to educate consumers about the dangers of smoking.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations

Effective September 22, 2009, any artificial or natural characterizing flavors (other than tobacco or menthol) are banned from all cigarettes. This prohibits a cigarette or any of its component parts (the tobacco, filter, or paper) from containing an artificial or natural flavor or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke.

The following became effective June 22, 2010:

  • Advertising changes - Ads for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco must be in black and white text only and cannot be within 1,000 feet of schools, parks or playgrounds.

  • Warning labels - Companies are required to include larger warning labels on all packaging and advertising of smokeless tobacco products.

  • Manufacturers are prohibited from producing any tobacco products labeled or advertised as "light," "low," "mild," or any other similar descriptor.

  • Product access - No free samples of tobacco products and no vending machines or self-service displays of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, except in adult-only facilities. Sampling of smokeless tobacco will be allowed in adult-only facilities in certain restricted situations.

  • Branded products - Tie-ins / giveaways are restricted from accompanying the purchase of tobacco products (t-shirts, lighters, wallets, etc.).

  • Sponsorship - Cigarette and smokeless manufacturers, distributors and retailers are restricted from branded sponsorship of athletic and cultural events.

See also: Tobacco Products, FDA