California

Alerts & Updates

Key Contacts

California State Board of Equalization (BOE)
Special Taxes and Fees
1-800-400-7115

California Secretary of State
Campaign Finance and Lobbying Activities 
(916) 653-6224
Political Reform Division Question Form

PCA Contact

Rachel Hall rachel@premiumcigars.org

Legislative Information

Taxation

California imposes a Cigarette and Tobacco Products Surtax on every distributor of tobacco products in the state. The tax is based on the wholesale cost of the products, at a rate determined annually by the State Board of Equalization (“BOE”). “Wholesale cost”means the cost of tobacco products to the distributor prior to any discounts or trade allowances and includes all manufacturing costs, the cost of raw materials, the cost of labor, any direct and indirect overhead costs, the wholesale markup, and any federal excise and U.S. Custom’s taxes paid.

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30123(b)

The state tobacco products tax is in lieu of all other states, county, municipal, or district taxes on the privilege of distributing tobacco products.

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30111

Two types of excise taxes are collected on cigarettes and tobacco products distributed in California:

  1. Cigarette tax
  2. Cigarette and Tobacco Products surtaxes.

As of July 1, 2019, the tax rate for cigarettes is $0.1435/cigarette ($2.87/pack of the ’20s) and 59.27% of the wholesale cost for other tobacco products. Each tax is described below, according to the type of product sold.

Cigarettes are subject to both the cigarette tax and the cigarette and tobacco products surtaxes, collectively referred to as cigarette taxes. The taxes are assessed on each cigarette distributed in California. Cigarette distributors pay the taxes by purchasing cigarette tax stamps from the CDTFA. Distributors are required to affix the tax stamp to each package of cigarettes before distribution. In turn, distributors receive a purchase discount of 0.85 percent of the total tax value per purchase order to help offset the cost of affixing cigarette tax stamps. As of April 1, 2017, the 0.85 percent discount for cigarette tax stamps is capped at the first one dollar ($1.00) in the denominated value of the stamp (Revenue and Taxation Code section 30166). Distributors pass the cigarette taxes on to their customers, as part of the retail selling price of the cigarettes. The cost of the cigarette tax stamp includes all of the aforementioned taxes.

Other tobacco products, also known as OTP, are subject to the cigarette and tobacco products surtaxes. The CDTFA determines one combined rate annually, which is equivalent to the combined rate of the taxes imposed on cigarettes. The calculation of the rate is based on the wholesale premium brand cigarette price as of March 1 each year, as published by the Tobacco Merchants Association, to be effective during the next fiscal year (July 1 through June 30). The tobacco products tax is imposed upon the distribution of tobacco products and is paid by tobacco products distributors.

A tobacco product distributor is required to calculate the amount of tobacco products tax due by applying the tobacco products tax rate to the wholesale cost of the tobacco products distributed in California and remit the total amounts owed each period.

Each distributor of tobacco products must file a Tobacco Products Distributor Tax Return (Form BOE-501-CT) with the BOE on or before the 25th day of each month, along with payment for taxes due. Everyone who purchases untaxed tobacco products must file a Cigarette and Tobacco Products Excise Tax Return (Form BOE-501-CI) on or before the last day of the month following the quarter in which the product was received, along with payment for taxes due.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 30181-30188: Reports and Payments

Tobacco products manufacturers or imports must file a Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer Return of Taxable Distribution of Samples in California (Form BOE-501-TIM) on or before the 25th day of the month following the month during which samples were distributed, along with payment for taxes due. Manufacturer or importer of tobacco products must attach to their return a Manufacturer/Importer Report of Tobacco Products Delivered or Shipped into California (Form BOE-501-MIT).

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 22979-22979.7: License and Administration Fee for Manufacturers and Importers

On August 12, 2019, your permit, license and/or account was moved into the new CDTFA online services system. For more information on the online service enhancements, see Special Notice L-598. This change may require customers or agents to create a Username and Password for the new system on and after August 12, 2019.

All tax returns and reports may be submitted through the Taxpayer Online Services Portal.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
California State Board of Equalization (BOE)e-filing
California State Board of EqualizationHome
Tobacco Products Distributor Tax ReturnForm CDTFA-501-CT
Cigarette and Tobacco Products Excise and Use Tax ReturnForm CDTFA-501-CIU
Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer Return of Taxable Distribution of Samples in CaliforniaForm CDTFA-501-TIM
Manufacturer/Importer Report of Nontaxable Sales of Tobacco ProductsForm CDTFA-501-MIT

Cigar and Smoking Tobacco Definitions

Smoking” means inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, or pipe, or any other lighted or heated tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation, whether natural or synthetic, in any manner or in any form. “Smoking” includes the use of an electronic smoking device that creates an aerosol or vapor, in any manner or in any form, or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking.

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 118948(b)

Cal. Bus and Professions Code 22950.5

Tobacco products” includes, but is not limited to, a product containing, made, or derived from tobacco or nicotine that is intended for human consumption, whether smoked, heated, chewed, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed, or ingested by any other means, including, but not limited to, cigars, little cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, or snuff, but does not include cigarettes. Tobacco products shall also include electronic cigarettes. 

Tobacco products” shall not include any product that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for sale as a tobacco cessation product or for other therapeutic purposes where that product is marketed and sold solely for such approved use. Tobacco products does not include any food products.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 30121(b)

Smokeless tobacco” means: a loose or flat, compressed cake form of tobacco that may be chewed or held in the mouth; or a shredded, powdered, or pulverized form of tobacco that may be inhaled through the nostrils, chewed, or held in the mouth.

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 118950(c)(2)

An “untaxed tobacco product” is either of the following:

  • Any tobacco product that has not yet been distributed in a manner that results in a tax liability
  • Any tobacco product that was distributed in a manner that resulted in a tax liability under this part, but that was returned to the distributor after the tax was paid and for which the distributor has either claimed a deduction, a refund, or a credit

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30005.5

Distribution” includes:

  • The sale of untaxed cigarettes or tobacco products in California
  • The use or consumption of untaxed cigarettes or tobacco products in California
  • The placing in this state of untaxed cigarettes or tobacco products in a vending machine or in retail stock for the purpose of selling the cigarettes or tobacco products to consumers

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30008

A “retailer” is a person who engages in California in the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products directly to the public from a retail location, including a person who operates vending machines from which cigarettes or tobacco products are sold.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22971(p)

“Wholesale cost” means the cost of tobacco products to the distributor prior to any discounts or trade allowances.

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30017

A “sale” is any transfer of title or possession for a consideration, exchange, or barter, in any manner or by any means whatever.

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30006

Restrictions

California law prohibits smoking in the following locations:

  • Enclosed spaces at a place of employment including lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, elevators, stairwells, and restrooms
  • Indoor common areas of apartment and condominium complexes, including hallways, stairwells, laundry rooms, and recreation rooms
  • Public buildings owned and occupied, or leased and occupied, by the state, a county, a city, or a California community college district
  • Outdoor areas within 20 feet of a main exit, entrance, or operable window of a public building
  • Passenger vehicles owned by the state
  • Within 25 feet of a playground or tot lot sandbox area; on the premises of a licensed day care center or in a licensed family day care home during the hours of operation
  • Group homes, foster family agencies, small family homes, transitional housing placement providers, and crisis nurseries and in vehicles regularly used to transport children
  • Any motor vehicle in which there is a minor, regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion or at rest
  • Public transportation systems and in any vehicle of an entity receiving transit assistance from the state
  • Any aircraft or Amtrak train, except to the extent permitted by federal law
  • By drivers of a youth bus or operators of general public paratransit vehicles

A pediatric day health and respite care facility is authorized to implement policies and procurements that prohibit smoking by patients, parents, staff, visitors, or consultants within the facility or on the premises if the prohibition is clearly stated in the admission agreement and notices are posted at the facility.

The prohibition on smoking in a place of employment is expanded to include owner-operated businesses defined as businesses with no employees, independent contractors or volunteers, in which the owner-operator of the business is the only worker. In addition, most exemptions that previously permitted smoking in certain work environments have been eliminated.

California 2015 A.B. X2 7

Cal. Lab. Code § 6404.5(b)

Cal. Gov. Code §§ 7596-7598: Smoking in Public Buildings

Cal. Health & Safety § 104495

Cal. Health & Safety § 1596.795

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1530.7

Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 118947–118949: Smoking in Motor Vehicles

Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 118925–118945: Smoking in Private and Public Transportation

Cal. Veh. Code §§ 12523(d)(2), 12523.5(d)(2)

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1760. 9: Pediatric Day Health and Respite Care Facilities


An employer who permits any non-employee access to his or her place of employment on a regular basis has not acted knowingly or intentionally in violation of the smoking prohibition if he or she has taken the following reasonable steps to prevent smoking by a non-employee:

  • Posted clear and prominent signs, as follows:
    • Where smoking is prohibited throughout the building or structure, a sign stating “No Smoking” must be posted at each entrance to the building or structure.
    • Where smoking is permitted in designated areas of the building or structure, a sign stating “Smoking is prohibited except in designated areas” must be posted at each entrance to the building or structure.

Cal. Lab. Code § 6404.5(c)


The Legislature has declared its intent not to preempt the field of regulation of the smoking of tobacco. A local governing body may ban completely the smoking of tobacco or may regulate smoking in any manner not inconsistent with state law.

Cal. Health & Safety § 118910


The state law on smoking prohibitions in places of employment constitutes a uniform statewide standard for regulating the smoking of tobacco products in enclosed places of employment and supersedes and renders unnecessary the local enactment or enforcement of local ordinances regulating the smoking of tobacco products in enclosed places of employment.

Cal. Lab. Code § 6404.5(g)


State law on smoking in public buildings does not preempt the authority of any county, city, city and county, California Community College campus, the campus of the California State University, or campus of the University of California to adopt and enforce additional, more restrictive smoking and tobacco control ordinances, regulations, or policies.

Cal. Gov. Code §§ 7596-7598


State law does not preempt the authority of any county, city, or city and county to regulate smoking around playgrounds or tot lot sandbox areas. Any county, city, or city and county may enforce any ordinance adopted prior to January 1, 2002, or may adopt and enforce new, more restrictive regulations on and after January 1, 2002.

Cal. Health & Safety § 104495


State law does not prohibit a city or county from enacting or enforcing a more stringent ordinance relating to smoking in a family day care home.

Cal. Health & Safety § 1596.795


State law does not preempt any more restrictive local ordinance on smoking in private and public transportation.

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 118940

The following are exempt from the ban on smoking, subject to conditions:

  • Designated guestroom accommodations (maximum of 20%) in a hotel, motel, or similar transient lodging establishment.
  • Licensed retail or wholesale tobacco shops and private smokers’ lounges.
    • “Private smokers’ lounge” means any enclosed area in or attached to a retail or wholesale tobacco shop that is dedicated to the use of tobacco products, including, but not limited to, cigars and pipes.
    • “Retail or wholesale tobacco shop” means any business establishment the main purpose of which is the sale of tobacco products, including, but not limited to, cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories.
    • The California Attorney General issued an opinion in 2012 concluding that neither retail or wholesale tobacco shops nor private smokers’ lounges are exempt from the smoking prohibition if they serve alcohol to patrons.
    • California law does not provide a specific application procedure to qualify for exemption from the smoking ban. Localities may have specific requirements.
  • Cabs of motortrucks or truck tractors, if no nonsmoking employees are present.
  • Warehouse facilities with more than 100,000 square feet of total floorspace, and 20 or fewer full-time employees working at the facility, but not including any area within a facility that is utilized as office space.
  • Theatrical production sites, if smoking is an integral part of the story in the theatrical production.
  • Medical research or treatment sites, if smoking is integral to the research and treatment being conducted.
  • Private residences, except for private residences licensed as family day care homes.
  • Patient smoking areas in long-term health care facilities.
  • Private living areas of public buildings.
  • Parking areas of covered parking lots.
  • Public sidewalks within 25 feet of a playground or tot lot area.
  • Family day care homes before or after hours of operation as a day care facility, but smoking in areas where children are present, even after hours, is prohibited.

Cal. Lab. Code § 6404.5(d)

Cal. Gov. Code §§ 7596-7598

Cal. Health & Safety § 104495

Cal. Health & Safety § 1596.795

Individuals under 21 years of age cannot purchase, receive, or possess any tobacco, cigarette, or cigarette papers, or any other preparation of tobacco, or any other instrument or paraphernalia that is designed for the smoking of tobacco, products prepared from tobacco, or any controlled substance.

Cal. Pen. Code § 308(b)


No person may sell, offer for sale, distribute, or import any tobacco product commonly referred to as “bidis” or “beedies,” unless that tobacco product is sold, offered for sale, or intended to be sold in a business establishment that prohibits the presence of persons under 18 years of age on its premises.

Cal. Pen. Code § 308.1


Similarly, it is illegal for any person, firm, or corporation to knowingly sell, give, or in any way furnish to another person who is under 18 years of age any tobacco, cigarette, or cigarette papers, or blunt wraps, or any other preparation of tobacco, or any other instrument or paraphernalia that is designed for the smoking or ingestion of tobacco, products prepared from tobacco, or any controlled substance.

Cal. Pen. Code § 308(a)(1)


No minor under the age of 16 years may be employed or permitted to work in any capacity in assorting, manufacturing, or packing tobacco.

Cal. Lab. Code § 1294(f)


Every person, firm, or corporation that sells, or deals in tobacco or any preparation thereof, must conspicuously post, at each point of purchase in each place of business, a notice stating that selling tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age is illegal and subject to penalties. The notice must also state that the law requires that all persons selling tobacco products check the identification of a purchaser of tobacco products who reasonably appears to be under 18 years of age. The warning sign must include a toll-free telephone number to the State Department of Public Health for persons to report unlawful sales of tobacco products to minors. 

Cal. Pen. Code § 308(c)

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22952(b)


It is the Legislature’s intent to regulate the area of tobacco products age restrictions. As a result, a city, county, or city and county cannot adopt any ordinance or regulation inconsistent with Cal. Pen. Code § 308.

Cal. Pen. Code § 308(f)


Division of Labor Standards Enforcement staff reported that California law contains no specific provisions concerning the minimum age to work in tobacco retail stores. In general, minors 14 and 15 years of age may be employed in cashiering, selling, bagging, and carrying out customers’ orders. However, minors under 21 years of age may not be employed during business hours in or on that portion of any premises that are primarily designed and used for the sale and service of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises. Minors under 18 may be employed by establishments that sell alcohol for consumption off the premises only if the minor is constantly supervised by a person 21 years of age or older.

Cal. Lab. Code § 1294.3

Cal. Bus. And Prof. Code § 25663


Tobacco products are prohibited to be marketed by an operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application or mobile application directed to minors (under the age of 18 years old) who reside in the state. 

Cal. Bus. And Prof. Code § 22580

In California, it is illegal for any person, agent, or employee of a person in the business of selling or distributing smokeless tobacco or cigarettes to engage in the non-sale distribution of any smokeless tobacco, cigarettes, coupons, coupon offers, gift certificates, or gift cards to any person:

  • in any public building, park, or playground, or on any public sidewalk, street, or other public grounds, including city and county streets and sidewalks, parade grounds, fairgrounds, public transportation facilities and terminals, public reception areas, public health facilities, public recreational facilities, and public office buildings
  • on any private property that is open to the general public, whether or not a fee or charge is imposed for entry or use

However, the distribution of tobacco product samples in connection with the sale of another item, including tobacco products, cigarette lighters, magazines, or newspapers will not constitute non-sale distribution.

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 118950(b)


It is illegal for any person by any means, as part of an advertising plan or program, to distribute free samples of smokeless tobacco products within a 2-block radius of any premises or facilities whose primary purpose is directed toward persons under 18 years of age, including schools, clubhouses, and youth centers, when those premises are being used for their primary purposes.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17537(c)


The giving away in California of untaxed tobacco products as samples is a taxable distribution, and each package of sample tobacco products distributed must be clearly marked as a sample. Tobacco products manufacturers or imports must file a Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer Return of Taxable Distribution of Samples in California on or before the 25th day of the month following the month during which samples were distributed, along with payment for taxes due.

Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer Return of Taxable Distribution of Samples in California


Staff reported that the distribution of tobacco samples in California is subject to state licensing requirements. Localities may also require additional tobacco sampling licenses.

City or county ordinances regulating the distribution of smokeless tobacco or cigarette samples within their boundaries may be more restrictive than state law. An ordinance that imposes greater restrictions on the sale or distribution of tobacco than state law will govern, to the extent of any inconsistency.

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 118950(e)

Operating Your Business

Any person or entity engaged in business in California who intends to sell or lease tangible personal property that would ordinarily be subject to sales tax if sold at retail must first obtain a California Sellers Permit by applying electronically at the BOE’s e-filing website or in person at the nearest BOE office.

Every distributor and wholesaler of tobacco products must then obtain a California Tobacco Products Distributor License at least 30 days before purchasing untaxed tobacco products from an out-of-state seller or purchasing tax-paid tobacco products for resale to other retailers. Distributor Licenses may be obtained by registering and submitting the appropriate application at the BOE’s e-filing website and paying an annual registration fee of $1,200 per business location. Distributor Licenses are valid for one calendar year and must be renewed electronically every year.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22975-22978.8: License for Wholesalers and Distributors of Cigarettes and Tobacco Products


Every tobacco product manufacturer or importer must obtain a California Manufacturer/Importer Tobacco Products License at least 30 days before commencing business. Manufacturer/Importer Licenses may be obtained by registering and submitting the appropriate application at the BOE’s e-filing website and paying a one-time registration fee in an amount that depends on the products to be manufactured or imported.

Product typeregistration fee
Chewing tobacco or snuff$10,000
Only tobacco products excluding chewing tobacco or snuff$2,000
Chewing tobacco, snuff, and other tobacco products$10,000

Manufacturer/Importer Licenses are valid for one calendar year and must be renewed electronically every year.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22979-22979.7: License and Administration Fee for Manufacturers and Importers


Retail sellers of tobacco products in California must obtain a California Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retailer License prior to purchasing tax-paid products from California Licensed Distributors or Wholesalers and prior to making retail sales of tobacco products to consumers. A separate license is required for each location or vending machine from which tobacco products are sold at retail. Retailer Licenses may be obtained by registering and submitting the appropriate application at the BOE’s e-filing website. Retailer Licenses are valid for one calendar year and must be renewed electronically every year.

Effective July 1, 2016, a fee of $265 is to be submitted with each license application for manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers of cigarettes and tobacco products. For calendar years beginning on and after January 1, 2016, every retailer must file an application for renewal of a retailer’s license accompanied by a fee of $265 per retail location. Additionally, the licensing fees for every wholesaler and distributor who commences business selling or distributing cigarettes or tobacco products, or who commences doing so at a new of different place of business in the state is raised to $1,200.

California 2015 A.B. X2 11

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22972-22974.8: License for Retailers of Cigarettes and Tobacco Products


Each distributor of tobacco products must file a Tobacco Products Distributor Tax Return (Form BOE-501-CT) with the BOE on or before the 25th day of each month, along with payment for taxes due. Everyone who purchases untaxed tobacco products must file a Cigarette and Tobacco Products Excise Tax Return (Form BOE-501-CI) on or before the last day of the month following the quarter in which the product was received, along with payment for taxes due.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 30181-30188: Reports and Payments


Tobacco products manufacturers or imports must file a Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer Return of Taxable Distribution of Samples in California (Form BOE-501-TIM) on or before the 25th day of the month following the month during which samples were distributed, along with payment for taxes due. Manufacturer or importer of tobacco products must attach to their return a Manufacturer/Importer Report of Tobacco Products Delivered or Shipped into California (Form BOE-501-MIT).

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22979-22979.7: License and Administration Fee for Manufacturers and Importers

All tax returns and reports may be submitted through the BOE’s e-filing website.


Licensed retail or wholesale tobacco shops and private smokers’ lounges are exempt from the ban on smoking. 

  • Private smokers’ lounge” means any enclosed area in or attached to a retail or wholesale tobacco shop that is dedicated to the use of tobacco products, including, but not limited to, cigars and pipes.
  • Retail or wholesale tobacco shop” means any business establishment the main purpose of which is the sale of tobacco products, including, but not limited to, cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories.

However, the California Attorney General issued an opinion in 2012 concluding that neither retail or wholesale tobacco shops nor private smokers’ lounges are exempt from the smoking prohibition if they serve alcohol to patrons.

California law does not provide a specific application procedure to qualify for exemption from the smoking ban. Localities may have specific requirements.

Localities may also require additional business licenses.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
California State Board of Equalization (BOE) – Filinge-filing
California State Board of Equalization (BOE) – HomeHome
Tobacco Products Distributor Tax ReturnForm CDTFA-501-CT
Cigarette and Tobacco Products Excise and Use Tax ReturnForm CDTFA-501-CIU
Tobacco Products Manufacturer/Importer Return of Taxable Distribution of Samples in CaliforniaForm CDTFA-501-TIM
Manufacturer/Importer Report of Nontaxable Sales of Tobacco ProductsForm CDTFA-501-MIT

Political Involvement

A “lobbyist” is either of the following:

  • Any individual who receives $2,000 or more in economic consideration in a calendar month, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses, or whose principal duties as an employee are, to communicate directly or through his or her agents with any elective state official, agency official, or legislative official for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action.
  • A placement agent, defined as an individual directly or indirectly hired, engaged, or retained by, or serving for the benefit of or on behalf of, an external manager or an investment fund managed by an external manager, and who acts or has acted for compensation as a finder, solicitor, marketer, consultant, broker, or other intermediary in connection with the offer or sale to a state public retirement system in California or an investment vehicle either of the following:
    • In the case of an external manager within the meaning of paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 82025.3, the investment management services of the external manager.
    • In the case of an external manager within the meaning of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 82025.3, an ownership interest in an investment fund managed by the external manager.

Cal. Gov. Code § 82039(a)

A “lobbying firm” is any business entity, including an individual contract lobbyist, which meets either of the following criteria:

  • The business entity receives or becomes entitled to receive any compensation, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses, for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action on behalf of any other person, and any partner, owner, officer, or employee of the business entity is a lobbyist.
  • The business entity receives or becomes entitled to receive any compensation, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses, to communicate directly with any elective state official, agency official, or legislative official for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action on behalf of any other person, if a substantial or regular portion of the activities for which the business entity receives compensation is for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action.

Cal. Gov. Code § 82038.5

A “lobbyist employer” is any person, other than a lobbying firm, who:

  • Employs one or more lobbyists for economic consideration, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses, for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action, or
  • Contracts for the services of a lobbying firm for economic consideration, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expense, for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action.

Cal. Gov. Code § 82039.5

Every lobbying firm and lobbyist employer is required to register both electronically and on paper with the Secretary of State no later than 10 days after qualifying as a lobbying firm or lobbyist employer. To register, lobbying firms must submit a Lobbying Firm Registration Statement (Form 601), a Lobbying Firm Activity Authorization (Form 602), and a Lobbyist Certification Statement (Form 604). Lobbyist Employers must submit a Lobbyist Employer or Lobbying Coalition Registration Statement (Form 603) and a Lobbyist Certification Statement (Form 604).

Lobbying registration is valid throughout a 2-year legislative session, beginning in January of an odd-numbered year and ending in December of the next even-numbered year. For registration submitted during the first year of a 2-year legislative session, a $100 fee is assessed in anticipation the lobbyist will continue during the remainder of the session. In the second year of the session, the fee for any lobbyist added to an employer’s or firm’s registration is $50.

Lobbyists are required to attend an ethics orientation course conducted by the Legislature. The Legislature will notify lobbyists of course dates and will provide a certificate of completion of the course. New lobbyists must take the course within 12 months after qualifying as a lobbyist, and lobbyists renewing their certifications must take the course by June 30th of the following year.

Lobbying firms and lobbyist employers must also file quarterly lobbying disclosure statements with the Office of the Secretary of State on or before every April 30th, July 31st, October 31st, and January 31st. Lobbying firms must submit a Lobbyist Report (Form 615) and a Report of Lobbying Firm (Form 625). Lobbyist employers must submit a Lobbyist Report (Form 615) and a Report of Lobbyist Employer and Report of Lobbying Coalition (Form 635). In addition, any persons spending $5,000 or more to influence legislative or administrative action must file Form 645.

To register and file electronically, the filer must first obtain a lobbying identification number and password by completing a Lobbying Application to Obtain Login ID Number and Password. The filer will then be able to use the Cal-Online system

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
Article 1: Registration and ReportingCal. Gov. Code § 86100-86118
California Secretary of State: Lobbying Forms & InstructionsForms & Instructions
Lobbying Firm Registration StatementForm 601
Lobbying Firm Activity AuthorizationForm 602
Lobbyist Employer or Lobbying Coalition Registration StatementForm 603
Lobbyist Certification StatementForm 604
Lobbyist ReportForm 615
Report of Lobbying Firm Form 625
Report of Lobbyist Employer and Report of Lobbying CoalitionForm 635
Report of Person Spending $5,000 or More to Influence Legislative or Administrative ActionForm 645
California Secretary of State: Lobbying Registration: Documents Required for Registration, Amendment, Termination, and WithdrawalLobbying Registration
California Secretary of State: Lobbying Forms and InstructionsForms and Instructions
Lobbying Application to Obtain Login ID Number and PasswordApplication for Access
California Online Campaign & Lobbying Filing SystemCal-Online

Shipping Regulations

California has various requirements in order to sell tobacco products to a person in the state over the internet, on the phone or via any other non “face-to-face” sales method. The delivery seller may be required to report to the Attorney General its delivery sales of cigarettes and tobacco products to California consumers. Cigars are excluded from this law. 

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30101.7

California requires any person selling or distributing tobacco products to verify that the purchaser or recipient of the product is 18 years or older. The requirements include but are not limited to receiving the date of birth, name, and address of the purchaser. If the seller or distributor is unable to verify the age, the customer shall be required to submit an age-verification kit. These requirements are found in the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act. 

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22950-22963

California imposes a Cigarette and Tobacco Products Surtax on every distributor of tobacco products in the state. The tax is based on the wholesale cost of the products, at a rate determined annually by the State Board of Equalization (“BOE”). “Wholesale cost” means the cost of tobacco products to the distributor prior to any discounts or trade allowances and includes all manufacturing costs, the cost of raw materials, the cost of labor, any direct and indirect overhead costs, the wholesale markup, and any federal excise and U.S. Custom’s taxes paid.

The state tobacco products tax is in lieu of all other states, county, municipal, or district taxes on the privilege of distributing tobacco products. California requires an excise tax on tobacco products which is in addition to the sales and use taxes. 

In California, shipping charges are taxable if shipped by the retailer. The tax does not apply to “separately stated” charges on the invoice for transportation of property. Staff confirmed that this regulation would apply to the shipping of tobacco products. 

In California, every distributor is required to pay a tax on their distributions of cigarettes at rates set in statute. This tax applies to other tobacco products except for cigars which are excluded from requirements that are specific to the mail order/internet cigarette taxes.

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30123(b)

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30111

Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 30101.7

Additional information about taxation in California, including information about tax rates, filings, and forms, is available under the Taxation and Definitions tabs above.


Disclaimer: PCA believes the information on this site is accurate. However, tobacco laws and regulations are subject to frequent change and court interpretation. Statements above are not intended as legal advice or restatement of law. PCA does not guarantee or assume responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of this information, nor that this information complies with all federal laws or the laws of all 50 states. Parties acknowledge and agree it is not the intention of PCA to provide specific legal advice for particular individuals, but rather to provide users with general information to better understand these issues. Users shall neither construe any of these materials as legal advice nor make this site the primary basis for any legal decisions made by or on your behalf and agree to release and waive any claims against PCA for the same. You shall consult with legal advisors concerning any contemplated individual decision.