New York City Tobacco Retailer Licensing

(New York Administrative Code §§17-703 and 20-202)


It is against the law for any person to sell cigarettes as a retail dealer without first obtaining a license for every place of business wherein that person sells cigarettes. It is also unlawful for persons to permit premises under their control to sell cigarettes without a license.

Application Process

To obtain a license, a person must file an application with the Commissioner of Finance for each place of business where he or she wishes to sell cigarettes in the city. For each place of business, a fee of $110 must be paid every two years. Licenses with an even number expire on December 31 of even-numbered years and odd-numbered licenses expire on December 31 of odd-numbered years. Licenses may not be assigned to anyone else by the licensee, and are only valid for the persons and places of businesses for which they are issued. Licenses must be clearly displayed at each retail location.

Revocation and Suspension of a License

Revocation: A retailer’s license must be revoked for a second violation within a two year period for:

  • Selling or offering for sale tobacco products not contained in a package which bears a health warning required by federal law (§17-704);
  • Allowing an employee who is under 18 to handle tobacco products unless he or she is under the supervision of someone who is 18 or older (§17-705); or
  • Selling tobacco products to an individual under 18 or failing to post a sign that such sales are prohibited (§17-706)

Suspension: A retailer’s license must be suspended for up to one year for a third violation of selling flavored tobacco products. (§§17-715 to 716)

Determining the Number of Violations: In determining the number of violations for a license holder, any violations occurring at the particular place of business in the past two years will be included, even though committed by a different license holder, unless the present license holder obtained the premises through an “arm’s length transaction.”

  • “Arm’s Length Transaction”: The following are presumed not to be “arm’s length transactions” (that is, they are presumed to be for the primary purpose of avoiding the effect of a violation), unless proven otherwise: (1) a sale between relatives; (2) a sale between related companies or partner’s in a business; or (3) any other sale or lease which is entered into for the primary purpose of avoiding the effect of violations on the premises or a revocation of a license.

Enforcement and Reporting Violations: Violations are enforced by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Consumer Affairs. Violations may be reported to these departments. (§17-709)

Re-Issuance of a License

Where a license for a place of business has been revoked, the Commissioner may refuse to issue a license for that place of business for a period of 2 years, unless the applicant demonstrates that it acquired the premises or business through an “arm’s length transaction.”