Retail Tobacco Sales Permit Program
Principal Activities and Services of the Retail Tobacco Sales Permit Program
The Retail Tobacco Sales Permit Program ensures that all facilities selling tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, have valid permits to operate. The San Francisco Tobacco Control Laws have been shown to dramatically reduce illegal sales to minors. Our program:
- Issues permits to businesses selling tobacco products including e-cigarettes, vape pens, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), etc.
- Monitors and enforces illegal sales of tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to any persons under 21 years old.
- Enforces the prohibition of mobile tobacco, e-cigarettes, and ENDS sales in San Francisco.
For information about secondhand smoke prevention or enforcement please visit the Secondhand Smoke Prevention web page.
The sale of tobacco products is prohibited in San Francisco to those under 21 years old. There are no exceptions in the local law, including no exceptions for military personnel, even though the California Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement (CA STAKE) act allows that exception elsewhere in California.
SFDPH prepared a Tobacco 21 Notice suitable for printing and posting in businesses.
Obtaining a Permit
Businesses engaging in the sale, delivery, furnishing or marketing of tobacco, tobacco paraphernalia and e-cigarettes from one person to another in San Francisco require a permit. This permit must be renewed annually with an annual permit fee.
Tobacco permit density cap
San Francisco Health Code Article 19H establishes a cap of 45 permits in each Supervisorial district. This article of the health code is implemented by Rules and Regulations governing 19H.
The amendments provide some exceptions; in general no new permits for the sale of tobacco, including e-cigarettes as defined in 19(N), will be issued for an establishment where:
- The total number of existing permits in the Supervisorial District exceeds 45
- The location will be within 500 feet of a school
- The location will be within 500 feet of another location that is permitted to sell tobacco under 19H
- Restaurants, bars or tobacco shops, or any establishment not already permitted
- The location was not previously occupied by a permitted Establishment.
The law does not affect annual permit renewals where payment of the annual renewal fee is made in a timely way.
The amendments require assessment of the tobacco density cap every two years. For 2015-2016, the density cap is 45, and SFDPH has determined that only Supervisorial District 7 (Inner Sunset) is below the density cap. Tobacco retail permits may be available for issue in District 7 until the cap is reached, as long as the new permitee meets the other requirements of 19H and all other all local, state, and federal laws.
Under the California cigarette & tobacco products licensing act of 2003 businesses also require a permit from the State Board of Equalization, which is intended to insure the proper collection of tobacco taxes. Mobile tobacco sales are prohibited in the state of California.
- Application Packet for the Sale of Tobacco Products (pdf) - This packet includes the primary application form, a Labor Law Checklist for SF Business Owners, a Declaration of Healthy and Safe Working Conditions and the Workers' Compensation Declaration form.
Additional materials to ensure compliance with the requirements of the 2015 amendments to Article 19H are also required and will be provided to applicants after receipt of the original application packet.
Permit applications must be accompanied by a check for the Permit Fee payable to the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The Permit Fee is non-refundable. Before submitting an application for a retail tobacco sales permit, please contact SFDPH staff to help you understand if the 2015 amendments to Article 19H will affect your application. Please contact:
- Uzziel Prado
- Environmental Health Branch
- Attention: Tobacco Sales Permits
- 1390 Market St., Suite 210
- San Francisco, CA 94102
- Phone: (415) 252-3873
Making a Complaint
If you would like to make a complaint regarding the illegal sale of tobacco to minors or a related tobacoo sales complaint, call 311.
- Service 24x7
San Francisco Department of Public Health Environmental Health Branch