Starting a Tobacco Ecommerce Business: How to Sell Cigars & Tobacco Online

How to Sell Tobacco Online: Step-by-Step E-Commerce Guide

The world of ecommerce is skyrocketing, and it’s transforming the way we shop. From weekly groceries to last-minute gifts, everything is just a click away.

The tobacco industry is certainly not left out.

More people are now buying their cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories online. If you’re thinking about starting that tobacco ecommerce business you’ve had on your mind, you’re in the right place.

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to sell tobacco online successfully.

The Rise of Online Shopping in the Tobacco Industry

Online shopping has changed the retail landscape, and the tobacco industry is no exception.

With the convenience of doorstep delivery and a wide array of products to choose from, it’s no surprise that more customers are choosing to purchase from tobacco ecommerce businesses. This shift provides a unique opportunity for business owners to tap into this growing market.

There are different types of online smoke shops. Some specialize in cigars, while others focus on pipe tobacco or smoking accessories. Each niche has its own set of customers with specific preferences and needs. Understanding these differences can help you tailor your offerings to meet the demands of your target audience.

Our goal here is to provide a comprehensive roadmap for business owners looking to venture into the online tobacco market. From navigating legalities to setting up your online store and marketing your products, we’ve got you covered.

How to Sell Tobacco Online Legally

Legality and Regulations: How to Sell Tobacco Online Legally

Before you start selling tobacco online, it’s crucial to understand the legal landscape. Selling tobacco products comes with a host of regulations that you must comply with when it comes to how to sell tobacco legally.

Let’s break down the key areas you need to focus on.

Age Verification

Age verification for tobacco sales is crucial. It’s not just about following the law; it’s about ensuring that you’re promoting responsible consumption. Various methods can be used for age verification, including credit card verification and third-party services.

Websites check their customers’ age in various ways. Often, they use age verification pop-ups where users confirm their age before entering. Some platforms also require customers to upload a government-issued ID for age verification.

Failing to implement proper age verification can lead to severe legal repercussions, including hefty fines and the loss of your business license.

State and Federal Laws

The legal requirements for selling tobacco online can vary significantly from state to state. It’s essential to research the specific laws in your state and ensure compliance with federal regulations, particularly those set by the FDA. This includes understanding the restrictions on marketing and selling tobacco products and adhering to packaging and labeling requirements.

Shipping Restrictions

Shipping tobacco products comes with its own set of challenges. Some states have restrictions on receiving tobacco shipments, and there are also tax implications to consider when shipping across state lines.

Many of the legal requirements for shipping tobacco are similar to those for selling vapes online. It’s crucial to be aware of these restrictions to avoid potential legal issues.

How to Set Up Your Tobacco Business Online

Setting Up Your Online Tobacco Business

Once you understand the legalities, it’s time to set up your online tobacco business. This involves choosing the right platform, selecting your products, and figuring out payment processing.

Choosing a Platform

Selecting the right ecommerce platform is crucial for your business. Platforms like WooCommerce and BigCommerce are options.

WooCommerce doesn’t restrict tobacco sales, but WooCommerce Payments, their built-in payment processor, does. You can still use WooCommerce with third-party payment gateways that handle high-risk products like tobacco. You’ll also want to think about a WooCommerce age verification solution.

BigCommerce is more flexible with tobacco sales. Their platform doesn’t restrict these products and integrates well with high-risk payment gateways.

A user-friendly and secure website design is also important. Customers should find it easy to browse through your products, make purchases, and trust that their personal information is safe.

Product Selection and Sourcing

Offering a variety of tobacco products can help you cater to different customer preferences. Whether it’s premium cigars, flavored pipe tobacco, or essential smoking accessories, having a diverse product range can attract a wider audience.

Sourcing your products from reputable wholesalers is equally important. Ensure that your suppliers comply with all relevant regulations and maintain high-quality standards. This will help build trust with your customers and ensure repeat business.

Payment Processing

One of the challenges of running online tobacco stores is finding reliable smoke shop payment processors. Many traditional payment processors are hesitant to work with businesses that sell tobacco products.

However, there are specialized processors that cater to this niche market. Exploring alternative payment methods, such as digital wallets and cryptocurrency, can also be beneficial.

Marketing and Customer Acquisition Growing Your Online Tobacco Shop

Marketing tobacco products online comes with its own set of challenges due to strict advertising restrictions. However, there are several strategies you can employ to attract and retain customers.

Restrictions on Tobacco Advertising

Many social media platforms and online advertising networks have strict policies against advertising tobacco products. This means you need to get creative with your marketing strategies. Focus on SEO and content marketing to drive organic traffic to your site.

Creating informative and engaging content about tobacco products, their history, and smoking culture can attract visitors to your website. Blogging, video content, and email newsletters are effective ways to reach your audience without violating advertising restrictions.

Building Customer Loyalty

Establishing trust and brand recognition is crucial in the online tobacco market. Offering loyalty programs, discounts, and exclusive deals for subscribers can help retain customers. Personalized customer service and high-quality products will keep your customers coming back for more.

Engage with your customers through social media and community forums. Encourage them to share their experiences and reviews. Positive word-of-mouth can significantly boost your brand’s reputation and attract new customers.

Other Considerations for Tobacco Ecommerce

Running a successful tobacco ecommerce business involves more than just selling products. Efficient inventory management, excellent customer service, and staying updated with industry trends are all part of the equation.

Inventory Management and Warehousing

Efficient inventory management is crucial to ensure you can meet customer demands without overstocking. Implementing inventory management software can help you track stock levels, manage orders, and forecast demand.

Secure storage for tobacco products is also important. Ensure that your warehousing facilities comply with all relevant regulations and maintain the quality of your products.

Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service is key to building a loyal customer base. Address common customer concerns promptly and professionally. Whether it’s inquiries about product availability, shipping, or returns, ensure your customers have a positive experience with your brand.

Personalized customer service can set you apart from competitors. Make your customers feel valued and appreciated, and they’ll be more likely to return and recommend your business to others.

Wrapping Up

Starting and running a successful online tobacco business requires careful planning, compliance with legal regulations, and a strong focus on customer satisfaction. By following this guide, business owners can create a thriving ecommerce platform that caters to the unique needs of tobacco enthusiasts.

Remember, compliance is key to avoiding legal pitfalls. Use tools like FTx Identity for online verifications to ensure you meet all regulatory requirements. With the right approach, your online tobacco business can become a trusted name in the industry, providing customers with high-quality products and exceptional service.

Ready to start your tobacco ecommerce business journey? Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation and explore a demo so you can join the community of successful online tobacco retailers today!

  • how to sell tobacco legally
  • online tobacco sales
  • tobacco ecommerce business


The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) states that no federal license is needed to sell tobacco products online. However, high-volume sellers (over 10,000 cigarettes a month) must keep records.

Most states do require a license for selling tobacco products, including online. The type of license (wholesaler or retailer) depends on your operation. Even without a physical presence, you might still need a state license to sell there.

It depends.

While there’s no federal license needed to sell tobacco products, your state or local area may have specific requirements. You need to research what’s needed in your location, which might include licenses, permits, and tax registration.

Selling tobacco to minors is strictly forbidden. Verifying age online can be challenging, so some states restrict or ban online tobacco sales entirely.

Shipping tobacco products also has restrictions based on the carrier and state laws.

Verifying a customer's age online and stopping underage sales need two things: strong age verification methods and clear policies.

Here are some options:

Age Verification Methods:

  • Document Verification: Customers upload scanned copies or photos of government-issued IDs (like a driver’s license or passport) for verification. This can be done manually or through automated software.
  • Third-Party Age Verification Services: These services use methods such as database checks, mobile number identity verification, or facial recognition to confirm age.
  • Facial Analysis: Some tools estimate a user’s age based on their photo using algorithms. While not perfect, it can help deter underage users.

Policies to Prevent Underage Sales:

  • Age Restriction Statement: Clearly display an age restriction statement on your website to inform users of the minimum age for purchase.
  • Terms and Conditions: Include a clause stating that purchases are only for legal adults and outline the consequences of underage purchases, such as account termination or purchase cancellation.
  • Age Verification Requirement: Make age verification mandatory during checkout, and do not allow purchases to proceed without successful age verification.
  • Payment Processing Restrictions:Partner with payment processors that support age verification and fraud prevention measures.

Shipping tobacco products involves restrictions depending on the carrier and destination.

Here's a breakdown:

USPS: You can ship tobacco in a limited capacity. USPS permits cigars domestically but restricts cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Proper packing and labeling are required.

UPS: Only licensed shippers can send tobacco through UPS. All deliveries require an adult signature, and the recipient must be at least 21.

FedEx: FedEx does not accept any tobacco or tobacco products for domestic or international shipping.

Selling tobacco online comes with specific payment processing challenges.

Many payment processors consider the tobacco industry high-risk due to government regulations and health concerns.

Additionally, there are fewer options because many popular payment processors won't work with tobacco businesses.

It’s commonly expected to experience higher fees due to increased risk when working with processors that accept tobacco merchants. This can include monthly fees, transaction fees, and rolling reserves.

Be Transparent: Being crystal clear about age restrictions and shipping limitations on your website is crucial. This helps prevent accidental purchases by underage users and demonstrates your commitment to responsible sales.

Avoid Targeting Minors: Marketing materials should avoid using language, visuals, or imagery that might be appealing to minors. Skip cartoon characters, bright colors, or celebrity endorsements that could attract a younger audience.

Follow Advertising Regulations: Understanding and adhering to local laws on tobacco advertising is vital. These laws can vary by region, so do your research to ensure your marketing efforts are compliant.

Educate Customers: Use your marketing to inform customers about responsible tobacco use and health risks.

Use Age Verification Software: Implementing secure age verification software is a strong defense against underage purchases. This ensures all customers are of legal age before completing transactions.