Tobacco Enforcement

Beginning July 1, 1998, the Liquor Enforcement Division received tobacco enforcement duties.  Federal mandate requires each state to have a tobacco enforcement program and a designated enforcement agency. States that do not have a program in place are in jeopardy of losing federal substance abuse and treatment grants. For Colorado, approximately 8 million dollars, annually, is at risk.
The Division coordinates its enforcement activities with the Colorado Departments of Human Services and Health. The Division responds to complaints about tobacco and nicotine sales to minors and conducts unannounced retailer compliance checks and inspections to determine retailer compliance.  Local law enforcement agencies and the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division are empowered to investigate Colorado tobacco law violations. These agencies may employ the use of underage operatives to conduct a compliance check of a retailer to determine if the retailer will sell or furnish tobacco products to minors. These compliance checks can occur at any time and retailers should establish policies, procedures, and training for their employees to prevent making unlawful sales to minors. Retailers who can establish they have provided employee training and have policies and procedures in place to prohibit tobacco sales to minors are rewarded with the ability to claim an affirmative defense from state administrative penalties for up to two underage sales violations. Even though an affirmative defense may help a retailer avoid paying an administrative fine, they will continue to be rechecked to ensure compliance.
The Division conducts approximately 2,500 tobacco-nicotine retailer compliance annually. 
Retailers who sell to minors during a compliance check will be issued a warning.  If violations continue to occur, a retailer can receive administrative fines ranging from $250 to $15,000.

On an annual basis, the Division will work with the Department of Human Services to develop a federal report concerning the effectiveness of Colorado's enforcement program. Federal mandates require Colorado to achieve and maintain an 80% retailer compliance rate to avoid endangering federal grant monies. Colorado's current compliance rate ranges from 92-96%.

Under Colorado law, an individual who furnishes nicotine products to a person under 18 years of age commits a class two petty offense and is subject to a two hundred dollar fine. Nicotine product retailers whose employees or vending machines furnish tobacco products to persons under 18 years of age are subject to the imposition of administrative penalties. These administrative penalties range from a written warning for a first offense, up to a fine of $15,000.
Colorado law also requires nicotine retailers to post a minor warning sign. Additionally, vending machines selling nicotine products that are accessible to minors are required to have devices attached to the machines that allow an adult employee to prevent the dispensing of nicotine products to minors. Retailers who violate either of these two provisions are also subject to the imposition of administrative penalties. Penalties for a violation of these provisions range from a written warning for a first offense, up to a $1,000.00 fine.
It is a criminal violation for a minor to purchase or attempt to purchase tobacco products. Minors who violate either of these provisions commit a class two petty offense and are subject to a one hundred dollar fine.   If your store is continually being subjected to attempted tobacco purchases by minors, please contact the Liquor Enforcement Division's Tobacco Enforcement Unit at 303-205-2300. The Division, upon request, will provide investigators who will spend time in your store to detect underage purchase attempts. Minors found attempting to purchase will be issued a criminal citation.