There are many benefits to being a tobacco retailer in this day and age. Despite the fact that the rates of cigarette smoking have declined over the last few decades, more and more people are hopping on the e-cigarette and cigar bandwagons. However, not everyone can be granted the privilege of selling tobacco products. If you’re a business owner who is interested in selling imported tobacco products, you must first apply for a tobacco permit.
Whether you manufacture tobacco products or simply sell imported products, it’s advisable to learn the ins and outs of applying for a permit. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which supplies permits to retailers of everything from firearms to liquor, offers an easy-to-use online application for business owners. Just as you can easily buy tobacco online, you can submit an application online, too. Just sign up with a Permits Online account.
1. Learn the average turnaround time for TTB applications.
There will be a brief waiting period before you hear back about the status of your application. So, if you are hoping to roll out a new line of products for the upcoming season, be aware of the approximate time you’ll be expected to wait before you receive a response. A regularly updated timeline is available for review on the TTB’s official website which provides a very thorough outline of information for both retailers and manufacturers of tobacco products.
Additionally, you can review the status of your application via your Permits Online account. Typically, applications for manufacturing plants take longer to process than applications simply to import and sell tobacco products. Manufacturers should expect to wait, on average, between 160-163 days, while importers can reasonably expect to hear back within about 78. If you have not heard back by the end of your average application processing time, you are within your rights to contact the TTB directly.
2. You are expected to maintain compliance.
Particularly if you are a manufacturer of tobacco products, it is of utmost importance to review the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and stay up to date with any changes that are made to the code. Keep a close eye on your Permits Online account so you can be aware well in advance of when you will need to renew your permit. If you need to make adjustments to an existing permit, you should set the process in motion as soon as possible and avoid delays.
With great power comes great responsibility, and your permission to manufacture, import, and sell tobacco products is a privilege that the government can take away at any time. It is also very important to maintain compliance with your state and local authorities as well as federal regulations. If you intend to sell or ship your products to another state, you are expected to learn the shipping laws of that state before any products leave your plant or store.
3. You should always keep records.
TTB personnel have the legal right to appear on your premises at any time and investigate. If you have reviewed the CFR, renewed your permit(s), and kept your plant or store up to health and safety standards, you should kept the stamp of approval from them. However, they may also requests to see records. If you don’t have them on hand, this will inconvenience the personnel and unnecessarily extend the process of their investigation.
If TTB personnel appear during normal business hours, don’t panic. Just be sure that all of your documentation is available for them to review. If you keep your documents on hand at all times, you won’t be caught off guard when they make an unexpected visit. How far back should your records go? A good rule of thumb is to save all of your records for a period of no less than three years from the date of the transaction or the date of the last entry required to be made, whichever comes later.