South Carolina

Key Contacts

South Carolina Department of Revenue
Tobacco Tax
(803) 896-1970
tobaccotax@sctax.org            

South Carolina State Ethics Commission
(803) 253-4192
(803) 253-7539 fax

PCA Contact

Rachel Hall rachel@premiumcigars.org

Legislative Information

Taxation

South Carolina imposes a tobacco product tax on every person engaged within the state in the business of selling tobacco products as a distributor. The tax is imposed on the person first receiving the untaxed tobacco products for sale, distribution, or other disposition in South Carolina and on any person within South Carolina importing, receiving, or acquiring tobacco products from outside the state or from any source whatsoever for use or consumption.

S.C. Code §12-21-610: Imposition of tax


Department of Revenue staff reported that localities do not impose excise taxes on tobacco products. However, retailers are liable for the regular retail sales tax in the applicable locality in addition to the state excise tax.

The tax on tobacco products is 5% of the manufacturer’s price. “Manufacturer’s price” means the established price at which a manufacturer sells to a wholesaler.

S.C. Code §12-21-620(2): Tax rates on products containing tobacco

Every distributor of tobacco product in South Carolina must file a Monthly Tobacco Tax Return (Form L-922) and all associated schedules on or before the 20th day of each month, along with payment for taxes due. All licensed distributors of tobacco products must use the “receipt method” to report and remit the tax on tobacco products as such products are received in South Carolina.

S.C. Code §12-21-780: Returns shall be filed by distributors; payment of tax on tobacco products; discount

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
South Carolina Department of Revenue: Cigarette and Tobacco Product FormsCigarette and Tobacco Product Forms
South Carolina MyDORWAY Online Tax PortalMyDORWAY Online Tax Portal

Cigar and Smoking Tobacco Definitions

 “Tobacco products” means cigars, cheroots, stogies, periques, granulated, plug cut, crimp cut, ready rubbed, and other smoking tobacco, snuff, snuff flour, cavendish, plug and twist tobacco, fine-cut, and other chewing tobacco, shorts, refuse scraps, clippings, cuttings and sweepings of tobacco, and other kinds and forms of tobacco, prepared in a manner to be suitable for chewing or smoking in a pipe or otherwise, or both for chewing or smoking, but does not include cigarettes.

S.C. Code §12-21-800: “Tobacco products” defined

Distributor” means:

  • Any person engaged in the business of selling tobacco products in South Carolina who brings or causes to be brought into the state any tobacco products for sale
  • Any person who makes, manufacturers, or fabricates tobacco products in South Carolina for sale in the state
  • Any person engaged in the business of selling tobacco products outside of South Carolina who ships or transports tobacco products to retailers in the state to be sold by those retailers

S.C. Code §12-21-810: “Distributor” defined

Restrictions

South Carolina law prohibits smoking, except where a smoking area is designated, in: public schools and preschools where routine or regular kindergarten, elementary, or secondary educational classes are held, including libraries; all other indoor facilities providing children’s services to the extent that smoking is prohibited in the facility by federal law and all other licensed childcare facilities; health care facilities; government buildings; elevators; public transportation vehicles; arenas and auditoriums of public theaters or public performing art centers; and buildings, or portions of buildings, and the outside areas immediately contiguous to these buildings owned, leased, operated, or maintained by a public institution of higher learning that the governing board of the institution has designated as nonsmoking.

S.C. Code §44-95-20: Places where smoking is prohibited


South Carolina state law does not contain restrictions on smoking in private workplaces, restaurants, or bars.

In areas where smoking is permitted, the owner, manager, or agent in charge of the premises or vehicle must conspicuously display signs designating smoking and nonsmoking areas alike, except that signs are not required in private offices.

S.C. Code §44-95-30: Designation of smoking and nonsmoking areas in places where smoking permitted


The owner, manager, or agent in charge of the premises must make every reasonable effort to prevent designated smoking areas from impinging on designated smoke-free areas by the use of existing physical barriers and ventilation systems.

S.C. Code §44-95-40: Separation of smoking and nonsmoking areas; barriers; ventilation


In 2008, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that local government generally may regulate smoking more stringently than state law.

Foothills Brewing Concern, Inc. v. City of Greenville (2008)


South Carolina HB 3420 (2019) requires local school districts to implement standards prohibiting the use of tobacco or alternative nicotine products in school buildings, facilities, campuses, or any other property.

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

  • Private offices and teacher lounges that are not adjacent to classrooms or libraries, unless included specifically in a directive by the local school board
  • Designated smoke areas in employee break areas of health care facilities
  • Enclosed private offices and designated areas in employee break areas government buildings
  • Taxicabs
  • Designated areas in foyers, lobbies, or other common areas of arenas and auditoriums of public theaters or public performing art centers, and as part of a legitimate theatrical performance

S.C. Code §44-95-20: Places where smoking is prohibited


South Carolina state law does not contain restrictions on smoking in private workplaces, restaurants, or bars. Localities may impose more stringent laws or ordinances.

Individuals under 18 years of age cannot purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or attempt to possess a tobacco product or an alternative nicotine product, or present or offer proof of age that is false or fraudulent for the purpose of purchasing or possessing these products. However, this prohibition does not apply to the possession of a tobacco product or an alternative nicotine product by a minor working within the course and scope of his or her duties as an employee.

S.C. Code §16-17-500(F-G): Sale or purchase of tobacco products or alternative nicotine products for minors; proof of age; location of vending machines; penalties; smoking cessation programs


Department of labor staff reported that minors 14 years of age and older may be employed in tobacco retail stores. If the minor’s parents are the owners of the establishment, the minor may be employed at any age.

It is illegal to sell, furnish, give, distribute, purchase for, or provide a tobacco product or an alternative nicotine product to a minor under 18 years of age.

S.C. Code §16-17-500(A): Sale or purchase of tobacco products or alternative nicotine products for minors; proof of age; location of vending machines; penalties; smoking cessation programs


It is unlawful to sell a tobacco product or an alternative nicotine product through a vending machine unless the vending machine is located in an establishment:

  • Which is open only to individuals 18 years of age or older or
  • Where the vending machine is under continuous control by the owner or licensee of the premises or an employee of the owner or licensee, can be operated only upon activation by the owner, licensee, or employee before each purchase, and is not accessible to the public when the establishment is closed.

S.C. Code §16-17-500(D): Sale or purchase of tobacco products or alternative nicotine products for minors; proof of age; location of vending machines; penalties; smoking cessation programs


South Carolina HB 3420 (2019) prohibits minors under eighteen years old from entering a retail establishment that’s primary purpose is the sale of tobacco products and/or alternative nicotine products. The retail establishment must post a sign indicating it is unlawful for a person under eighteen to enter the store.

State law on youth access to tobacco products must be implemented in an equitable and uniform manner throughout the state and enforced to ensure the eligibility for and receipt of federal funds or grants the state receives or may receive. Any laws, ordinances, or rules enacted pertaining to tobacco products or alternative nicotine products may not supersede state law or regulation. Nothing in state law affects the right of any person having an ownership or otherwise controlling private property to allow or prohibit the use of tobacco products or alternative nicotine products on the property.

S.C. Code §16-17-504: Implementation; local laws

Federal regulations prohibit free samples of cigarettes and limit free samples of smokeless tobacco products to certain age-restricted venues under several conditions.

Regulations Restricting the Sale, Distribution, and Marketing of Cigarettes, Cigarette Tobacco, and Smokeless Tobacco: Consumer Fact Sheet

In South Carolina, it is unlawful for a person to distribute a tobacco product or an alternative nicotine product sample to a person under 18 years of age. 

S.C. Code §16-17-502(A): Distribution of tobacco product or alternative nicotine product samples


Department of Revenue staff reported that the distribution of tobacco samples is subject to the state tobacco product tax and licensing requirements.

State law on youth access to tobacco products must be implemented in an equitable and uniform manner throughout the state and enforced to ensure the eligibility for and receipt of federal funds or grants the state receives or may receive. Any laws, ordinances, or rules enacted pertaining to tobacco products or alternative nicotine products may not supersede state law or regulation. Nothing in state law affects the right of any person having an ownership or otherwise controlling private property to allow or prohibit the use of tobacco products or alternative nicotine products on the property.

S.C. Code §16-17-504: Implementation; local laws


Department of Revenue staff reported that there are no laws restricting tobacco sampling to certain locations but advised staying away from schools.

Operating Your Business

Every person who engages in business as a retailer in South Carolina must obtain a Retail License before making any sales by submitting a Business Tax Registration Form (Form SCDOR-111) and a $50 fee for each permanent retail location with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Retail Licenses are valid as long as the same retailer continues to operate the business at that location.

A Tobacco Products License must be obtained, at no cost, by the following persons before engaging in the purchasing, selling, or distribution of tobacco products in South Carolina: wholesalers of tobacco products; retailers that purchase untaxed tobacco products; vending machine operators selling tobacco products through vending machines placed on another person’s premises; and sales representatives for manufacturers of tobacco products. Wholesalers and retailers must obtain a license for each place of business. To register, tobacco product distributors must submit either an Application for License to Purchase, Sell and Distribute Manufactured Tobacco (Form L-915) or a Manufacturer’s Sales Representatives’ License Application for Cigarette, Cigar, and Tobacco Products (Form L-917) with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Tobacco Products Licenses are valid for transacting business at the place designated on the license unless revoked or canceled.

S.C. Code §12-21-660: Licenses required for engaging in the tobacco business


Every distributor of tobacco products in South Carolina must file a Monthly Tobacco Tax Return (Form L-922) and all associated schedules on or before the 20th day of each month, along with payment for taxes due. All licensed distributors of tobacco products must use the “receipt method” to report and remit the tax on tobacco products as such products are received in South Carolina.

S.C. Code §12-21-780: Returns shall be filed by distributors; payment of tax on tobacco products; discount.


South Carolina state law does not contain restrictions on smoking in restaurants or bars. Generally, smoking and drinking may be allowed in these establishments. However, localities may impose more stringent laws or ordinances.

Localities may also require additional business licenses.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
South Carolina Department of Revenue: Cigarette and Tobacco Product FormsCigarette and Tobacco Product Forms
South Carolina MyDORWAY Online Tax PortalMyDORWAY Online Tax Portal

Political Involvement

Lobbying” means promoting or opposing through direct communication with public officials or public employees:

  • The introduction or enactment of legislation before the General Assembly or the committees or members of the General Assembly
  • Covered gubernatorial actions
  • Covered agency actions, or
  • Consideration of the election or appointment of an individual to a public office elected or appointed by the General Assembly

Lobbying” does not include the activities of a member of the General Assembly, a member of the staff of a member of the Senate or House of Representatives, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, or a member of the executive staff of the Governor or Lieutenant Governor acting in his capacity as a public official or public employee with regard to his public duties.

S.C. Code §2-17-10(12): Definitions

Lobbyist” means any person who is employed, appointed, or retained, with or without compensation, by another person to influence by direct communication with public officials or public employees:

  • the action or vote of any member of the General Assembly, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, or any other statewide constitutional officer concerning any legislation
  • the vote of any public official on any state agency, board, or commission concerning any covered agency actions, or 
  • the action of the Governor or any member of his executive staff concerning any covered gubernatorial actions.

Lobbyist” also means any person who is employed, appointed, or retained, with or without compensation, by a state agency, college, university, or other institution of higher learning to influence by direct communication with public officials or public employees:

  • the action or vote of any member of the General Assembly, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, or any other statewide constitutional officer concerning any legislation
  • the vote of any public official of any state agency, board, or commission concerning any covered agency actions, or 
  • the action of the Governor or any member of his executive staff concerning any covered gubernatorial actions.

Lobbyist” does not include:

  • an individual who receives no compensation to engage in lobbying and who expresses a personal opinion on the legislation, covered gubernatorial actions, or covered agency actions to any public official or public employee
  • a person who appears only before public sessions of committees or subcommittees of the General Assembly, public hearings of state agencies, public hearings before any public body of a quasi-judicial nature, or proceedings of any court of this State
  • any duly elected or appointed official or employee of the State, the United States, a county, municipality, school district, or a political subdivision thereof, or a member of the judiciary when appearing solely on matters pertaining to his office and public duties unless lobbying constitutes a regular and substantial portion of such official’s or employee’s duties
  • a person performing professional services in drafting legislation or in advising and rendering opinions to clients as to the construction and effect of proposed or pending legislation
  • a person who owns, publishes, or is employed by a radio station, television station, wire service, or other bona fide news medium which in the ordinary course of business disseminates news, editorials, columns, other comments, or other regularly published periodicals if such person represents no other person in lobbying for legislation, covered agency actions, or covered gubernatorial actions. This exception applies to the publication of any periodical which is published and distributed by a membership organization to its subscribers at least twelve times annually and for which an annual subscription charge of at least one dollar fifty cents a subscriber is made.
  • a person who represents any established church solely for the purpose of protecting the rights of the membership of the church or for the purpose of protecting the doctrines of the church or on matters considered to have an adverse effect upon the moral welfare of the membership of the church
  • a person who is running for office elected by the General Assembly or a person soliciting votes on the behalf of a person who is running for office elected by the General Assembly unless such person is otherwise defined as a lobbyist by this section, or
  • an individual who receives no compensation to engage in lobbying and who does not make expenditures or incur obligations for lobbying in an aggregate amount in excess of five hundred dollars in a calendar year.

S.C. Code §2-17-10(13): Definitions

Lobbyist principal” means the person on whose behalf and for whose benefit the lobbyist engages in lobbying and who directly employs, appoints, or retains a lobbyist to engage in lobbying. 

Lobbyist principal” does not include a person who belongs to an association or organization that employs a lobbyist, nor an employee, officer, or shareholder of a person who employs a lobbyist. If a membership association or organization is a lobbyist’s principal, the association or organization must register and report under the provisions of this chapter. A person is considered a lobbyist’s principal only as to the public office or public body to which he has authorized, pursuant to this chapter, a lobbyist to engage in lobbying.

S.C. Code §2-17-10(14): Definitions

Expenditure” means a purchase, payment, loan, forgiveness of a loan, an advance, in-kind contribution or expenditure, a deposit, transfer of funds, gift of money or anything of value for any purpose, and a payment to a lobbyist for compensation, for expenses, or lobbying, including the direct payment of expenses incurred at the request or suggestion of a lobbyist.

S.C. Code §2-17-10(5): Definitions

Any person who acts as a lobbyist or lobbyist principal must register with the State Ethics Commission prior to January 5th of each year or within 15 days of being employed, appointed, or retained as a lobbyist or within 15 days of hiring, employing, or retaining a lobbyist. A $100 registration fee must accompany each lobbyist and lobbyist’s principal registration form.

S.C. Code §2-17-20(A): Registration of lobbyists; notice of termination of lobbying activities; supplemental registration statements; list of lobbyists; recording keeping requirements; reregistration requirements

S.C. Code §2-17-25(A): Registration of lobbyist’s principle; notice of termination of lobbying authority; supplemental registration statements; list of lobbyist’s principle; recording keeping requirements; reregistration requirements


The Lobbyist and Lobbyist’s Principal Disclosure Statement is to be filed by each registered lobbyist and lobbyist’s principal prior to June 30th and January 31st. Each report should encompass income received and expenditures made through May 31st and December 31st, respectively.

S.C. Code §2-17-30 (A): Lobbyist’s reporting of lobbying activities

S.C. Code §2-17-35(A): Lobbyist’s principal’s reporting of lobbying expenditures


Lobbyist Registrations, Lobbyist’s Principal Registrations, and Lobbyist and Lobbyist’s Principal Disclosure Statements must be filed electronically through the Public Disclosure and Accountability Reporting System.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
South Carolina State Ethics Commission: Lobbying: General InformationLobbying Information

Shipping Regulations

South Carolina does not have any specific restrictions concerning the shipping of tobacco products to consumers. 

South Carolina Department of Revenue PACT Act


South Carolina does not require a specific license or registration for the shipment of tobacco products. However, every person engaged in the business of purchasing, selling or distributing cigars, cheroots, stogies, cigarettes, snuff or smoking or chewing tobacco at wholesale or through vending machines within South Carolina; or cigar and tobacco product manufacturers’ sales representatives who conduct business in South Carolina must file with the Department of Revenue an application for a license permitting to engage in the business.

S.C. Code §12-21-660: Licenses required for engaging in the tobacco business


Additional information about licensing in South Carolina is available under the Operating Your Business and Definitions tabs above.

South Carolina HB 3420 (2019) states that a person who sells tobacco or alternative nicotine products on the Internet is required to perform an age verification check on the individual. This measure requires the use of a method of mailing, shipping, or delivery of tobacco or alternative nicotine products that requires the signature of a person at least 18 years of age unless:

  1. The customer creates an online profile or account with personal information, including but not limited to, name, address, social security information, and a valid phone number, and that personal information is verified through publicly available records; or 
  2. The customer is required to upload a copy of his or her government-issued identification in addition to a current photograph of the customer; AND delivery is made to the customer’s name and address.

Every distributor, on or before the 20th day of each month, must file with the Department of Revenue a return on forms to be prescribed and furnished by the department showing the quantity and wholesale price of tobacco products transported or caused to be transported into South Carolina. Every distributor authorized by the Department to make returns and pay the tax on tobacco products shipped or delivered to any person in the State must file a return showing the quantity and wholesale price.

S.C. Code § 12-21-780Returns shall be filed by distributors; payment of tax on tobacco products; discount


If a direct seller maintains a tax paid South Carolina inventory, or the direct seller uses some other advance payment method, to ensure tobacco excise tax has been paid in advance of the sale, delivery or tender to the common carrier or delivery service, then the delivery seller must comply with the following:

  • obtain a tobacco tax license;
  • submit a bond or statement of financial stability to cover possible losses resulting from the delivery seller’s failure to remit taxes;
  • taxes must be paid in advance of the sale, delivery or tender to the common carrier or delivery service;
  • file a monthly tobacco tax return by the 20th of the month
  • be licenses for sales and use tax purposed and must remit the state and local sales or use tax; and
  • file with the Department by the 10th of each calendar month a memorandum or copy of every invoice covering every shipment of smokeless tobacco.

Remittance of Cigarette and Tobacco Taxes by “Delivery Sellers” under the Federal “Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act” and South Carolina Cigarette and Tobacco Tax Laws


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.