Washington

Alerts & Updates

Key Contacts

Washington Department of Revenue
(800) 647-7706

Washington Public Disclosure Commission
(360) 753-1111
(360) 753-1112 fax
pdc@pdc.wa.gov

PCA Contact

Tyler Henson tyler@premiumcigars.org

Legislative Information

Taxation

Washington imposes a tax on the sale, handling, or distribution of all tobacco products in the state. This tax is imposed at the time the distributor: brings, or causes to be brought, into Washington tobacco products for sale; makes, manufactures, fabricates, or stores tobacco products in Washington for sale in the state; ships or transports tobacco products to retailers in Washington, to be sold by those retailers; or handles for sale any tobacco products that are within the state but upon which tax has not been imposed. The distributor who first possesses the tobacco product in Washington is the distributor liable for the tax.

Washington HB 1873 (2019) expands the definition of “tobacco products” to include vapor products.  

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.020: Tax imposed – Deposited into the general fund.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.030: Legislative intent – Purpose.

Washington HB 1873: Concerning the taxation of vapor products as tobacco products


Staff reported that Washington localities do not levy additional taxes on tobacco products.

  • The tax on cigars is 95% of the taxable sales price of cigars, not to exceed $0.65 per cigar.
  • The tax on moist snuff is as follows:
    • for each can or package whose net weight is 1.2 oz or less, the greater of $2.526 or 83.5% of the cigarette tax multiplied by 20; or
    • for each can or package whose net weight is more than 1.2 oz, a proportionate tax at the rate established above on each ounce or fractional part of an ounce.
  • The tax on little cigars is an amount per cigar equal to the cigarette tax.
  • The tax on all other tobacco products is 95% of the taxable sales price.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.020: Tax imposed – Deposited into the general fund.


Sale, use, consumption, handling, possession, or distribution of vapor products subject to a tax of 37% of the taxable sales price. “Vapor products” are defined as any noncombustible product containing a solution or other consumable substance, regardless of whether it contains nicotine, which employs a mechanical heating element, battery, or electronic circuit that can be used to produce vapor from the solution or other substance. For purposes of taxation, vapor products do not include tobacco cessation products, component ingredients in vapor products, or marijuana or tobacco products. The distributor is responsible for the payment of the tax, but the tax may be imposed on the consumer if it was not previously collected. The tax may be collected only once during the commercial distribution and retail sales process. 

This measure also decreases the tax on products in an accessible container to $0.09 per milliliter of the solution and decreases the tax on all other vapor products to $0.27 per milliliter of solution.

The tax applies to preexisting inventories of vapor products. Retailers and distributors must report the tax due on preexisting inventories of vapor products on or before October 31, 2019 and are responsible for payment of the tax by January 31, 2020. A penalty equal to the greater of $250 or 10% of the tax due is applied if the preexisting inventory tax is not paid. Bundled transactions that include a vapor product are subject to the tax on the entire selling price of the transaction.

Washington HB 1873 (2019): Concerning the taxation of vapor products as tobacco products

Tobacco products distributors are required to file monthly Combined Excise Tax Returns with the Washington State Department of Revenue on or before the 25th of each month, along with payment for taxes due. Taxes may be filed and paid online on the Department of Revenue website.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.32.045: Taxes – When due and payable – Reporting periods – Verified annual returns – Relief from filing requirements.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
Washington State Department of Revenue HomeWashington State Department of Revenue
Monthly Combined Excise Tax ReturnsMonthly Combined Excise Tax Returns

Cigar and Smoking Tobacco Definitions

Smoke” or “smoking” means the carrying or smoking of any kind of lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, or any other lighted smoking equipment.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.160.020(1)

A “cigar” is a roll for smoking that is of any size or shape and that is made wholly or in part of tobacco, irrespective of whether the tobacco is pure or flavored, adulterated or mixed with any other ingredient, if the roll has a wrapper made wholly or in the greater part of tobacco. “Cigar” does not include a cigarette.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.010(5)

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 tobaccos, shorts, refuse scraps, clippings, cuttings and sweepings of tobacco, and other kinds and forms of tobacco, prepared in such manner as to be suitable for chewing or smoking in a pipe or otherwise, or both for chewing and smoking, and any other product, regardless of form, that contains tobacco and is intended for human consumption or placement in the oral or nasal cavity or absorption into the human body by any other means, but does not include cigarettes. In addition, products containing a solution or other consumable substance that contains tobacco or nicotine that employs a mechanical heating element, battery, or electronic circuit that can be used to produce vapor from the solution or other substance; products that contain tobacco or nicotine that is in the form of a solid that is vaporized for inhalation; flavored liquids intended for inhalation in vaporizing devices that the Department of Revenue determines the manufacturer or distributor intends to be inhaled in combination with either a tobacco, nicotine, or tetrahydrocamabinal containing substance; and hardware that comes preloaded with a vaporizable liquid intended for inhalation or can accept a preloaded liquid cartridge or cartridge with a solid substance intended to be vaporized for inhalation are included in this definition.

Wash. Rev. Code.§ 82.26.010(21)

Washington HB 1873: Concerning the taxation of vapor products as tobacco products

Moist snuff” is tobacco that is finely cut, ground, or powdered; it is not for smoking; and is intended to be placed in the oral, but not the nasal, cavity.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.010(13)

A “distributor” is:

  • any person engaged in the business of selling tobacco products in Washington who brings, or causes to be brought, into the state any tobacco products for sale
  • any person who makes manufactures, fabricates, or stores tobacco products in Washington for sale in the state
  • any person engaged in the business of selling tobacco products outside of Washington who ships or transports tobacco products to retailers in the state, to be sold by those retailers
  • any person engaged in the business of selling tobacco products in Washington who handles for sale any tobacco products that are within the state but upon which tax has not been imposed

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.010(8)

A “retailer” is any person engaged in the business of selling tobacco products to ultimate consumers.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.010(17)

A “manufacturer” is a person who manufactures and sells tobacco products.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.010(11)

Taxable sales price” means:

  • In the case of a taxpayer that is not affiliated with the manufacturer, distributor, or other people from whom the taxpayer purchased tobacco products, the actual price for which the taxpayer purchased the tobacco products
  • In the case of a taxpayer that purchases tobacco products from an affiliated manufacturer, affiliated distributor, or other affiliated person, and that sells those tobacco products to unaffiliated distributors, unaffiliated retailers, or ultimate consumers, the actual price for which that taxpayer sells those tobacco products to unaffiliated distributors, unaffiliated retailers, or ultimate consumers
  • In the case of a taxpayer that sells tobacco products only to affiliated distributors or affiliated retailers, the price, determined as nearly as possible according to the actual price, that other distributors sell similar tobacco products of like quality and character to unaffiliated distributors, unaffiliated retailers, or ultimate consumers
  • In the case of a taxpayer that is a manufacturer selling tobacco products directly to ultimate consumers, the actual price for which the taxpayer sells those tobacco products to ultimate consumers
  • In the case of a taxpayer that has acquired tobacco products under a sale as defined in subsection (18)(b) of this section, the price, determined as nearly as possible according to the actual price, that the taxpayer or other distributors sell the same tobacco products or similar tobacco products of like quality and character to unaffiliated distributors, unaffiliated retailers, or ultimate consumers
  • Otherwise, the price, determined as nearly as possible according to the actual price, that the taxpayer or other distributors sell the same tobacco products or similar tobacco products of like quality and character to unaffiliated distributors, unaffiliated retailers, or ultimate consumers

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.010(19)

Sale” means any transfer, exchange, or barter, in any manner or by any means whatsoever, for a consideration, and includes and means all sales made by any person. The term “sale” includes a gift by a person engaged in the business of selling tobacco products, for advertising, promoting, or as a means of evading the provisions of state law.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.010(18)

Restrictions

Washington law prohibits smoking in: public places, including schools, elevators, public conveyances or transportation facilities, museums, concert halls, theaters, auditoriums, exhibition halls, indoor sports arenas, hospitals, nursing homes, health care facilities or clinics, enclosed shopping centers, retail stores, retail service establishments, financial institutions, educational facilities, ticket areas, public hearing facilities, state legislative chambers and immediately adjacent hallways, public restrooms, libraries, restaurants, waiting areas, lobbies, bars, taverns, bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos, reception areas, no less than 75% of the sleeping quarters within a hotel or motel that are rented to guests, and within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited; and places of employment, including entrances and exits to the places of employment, work areas, restrooms, conference, and classrooms, break rooms and cafeterias, other common areas, and within 25 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.160.030: Smoking prohibited in public places or places of employment.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.160.020: Definitions.


Owners, or in the case of a leased or rented space the lessee or other people in charge, of a place regulated under state law must prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment and must post signs prohibiting smoking. Signs must be posted conspicuously at each building entrance. In the case of retail stores and retail service establishments, signs must be posted conspicuously at each entrance and in prominent locations throughout the place.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.160.050: Owners, lessees to post signs prohibiting smoking.


Local fire departments or fire districts and local health departments may adopt regulations as required to implement state law.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.160.080: Local regulations authorized.

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

  • Private residences, unless the private residence is used to provide licensed childcare, foster care, adult care, or other similar social service care on the premises
  • Private facilities that are occasionally open to the public, except on the occasions when the facility is open to the public
  • Private enclosed workplaces, within public places, even though such workplaces may be visited by nonsmokers, excepting places in which smoking is prohibited by the chief of the Washington state patrol, through the director of fire protection, or by other law, ordinance, or regulation

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.160.020: Definitions.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.160.060: Intent of chapter as applied to certain private workplaces.


Washington state law does not provide a smoking ban exemption for tobacco retail stores, cigar bars, or tobacconists.

Individuals under 21 years of age cannot purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, obtain, or attempt to obtain cigarettes or tobacco products. Similarly, it is illegal to sell, give, or permit to be sold or given to any person under 21 years of age any cigar, cigarette, cigarette paper or wrapper, tobacco in any form, or a vapor product.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.155.080: Purchasing, possessing by persons under eighteen – Civil infraction – Jurisdiction.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 26.28.080: Selling or giving tobacco to a minor.


Any employee can sell and handle tobacco products when:

  • The business has a cigarette retailer’s license, or
  • The business has registered with the Department of Revenue, and
  • There is a supervising employee who is 18 years of age or older on the retail premises.

If someone under 14 years of age is employed by a retailer, the retailer must obtain a written permit from a judge of a superior court of the minor’s county of residence. Having an employee under 18 years of age who handles and sells cigarettes and tobacco products is not considered “possessing” cigarettes and tobacco products and is not considered “giving” the employee cigarettes and tobacco products.

Wash. Admin. Code § 314-10-040: How old do employees have to be to sell and handle cigarettes or tobacco products?

Wash. Rev. Code. § 26.28.060: Child labor – Penalty.

Wash. Admin. Code § 296-125-018: Minimum age for employment.


Licensed tobacco product retailers must display a sign concerning the prohibition of tobacco sales to minors. The sign must be posted so that it is clearly visible to anyone purchasing tobacco products from the licensee and must be designed and produced by the Department of Health to read:

“THE SALE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS TO PERSONS UNDER AGE 21 IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED BY STATE LAW. IF YOU ARE UNDER 21, YOU COULD BE PENALIZED FOR PURCHASING A TOBACCO PRODUCT; PHOTO ID REQUIRED.”

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.155.020: Prohibition sign to be posted.


State law preempts political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing requirements for the licensure and regulation of tobacco product promotions and sales within retail stores, except that political subdivisions that have adopted ordinances prohibiting sampling by January 1, 1993, may continue to enforce these ordinances. No political subdivision may: impose fees or license requirements on retail businesses for possessing or selling cigarettes or tobacco products, other than general business taxes or license fees not primarily levied on tobacco products; or regulate or prohibit youth access, coupons, or sampling of tobacco products. This preemption does not otherwise preempt political subdivisions from adopting ordinances regulating the sale, purchase, use, or promotion of tobacco products not inconsistent with state law.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.155.130: Preemption of political subdivisions.

In Washington, no person may engage in the business of sampling tobacco products.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.155.050: Sampling prohibited – Penalty.


No person may give or distribute cigarettes or other tobacco products to a person by a coupon if such coupon is redeemed in any manner that does not require an in-person transaction in a retail store.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.155.070: Coupons.


State law preempts political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing requirements for the licensure and regulation of tobacco product promotions and sales within retail stores, except that political subdivisions that have adopted ordinances prohibiting sampling by January 1, 1993, may continue to enforce these ordinances.

No political subdivision may: impose fees or license requirements on retail businesses for possessing or selling cigarettes or tobacco products, other than general business taxes or license fees not primarily levied on tobacco products; or regulate or prohibit youth access, coupons, or sampling of tobacco products.

This preemption does not otherwise preempt political subdivisions from adopting ordinances regulating the sale, purchase, use, or promotion of tobacco products not inconsistent with state law.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.155.130: Preemption of political subdivisions.

Operating Your Business

Businesses that purchase, sell, or distribute tobacco products other than cigarettes to retailers for resale in Washington are required to obtain a Tobacco Distributor License by filing a Business License Application and separate Personal/Criminal History Statements for certain individuals with the Washington Business Licensing Service and a Special Tax Registration and Return – Tobacco with the U.S. Department of Treasury, Alcohol, and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau.

The application fees are:

  • $650 for the main location
  • $115 for each branch location
  • $19 for the Business License Application; and
  • $5 to register the business as a trading name 

Each location at which tobacco products other than cigarettes are sold at retail in Washington is required to obtain a Tobacco Products Retailer License by completing the following:

  • Filing a Business License Application
  • Filing separate Personal/Criminal History Statements for certain individuals
  • Remitting a $93 application fee for each location
  • Remitting a $19 Business License Application fee
  • Remitting a $5 fee to register the business as a trade name

Business License Applications may be completed online with My DOR

All licenses must be renewed annually on or before the expiration date printed on the top right-hand corner of each Business License document. Business Licensing Service will send each business a renewal notice approximately 45 days before the license expires. Licenses may be renewed online with My DOR or by mail.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.150: Distributor’s license, retailer’s license – Application – Approval – Display.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.160: Distributor’s license – Application fees.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.170: Retailer’s license – Application fee.


Tobacco products distributors are required to file monthly Combined Excise Tax Returns with the Washington State Department of Revenue on or before the 25th of each month, along with payment for taxes due. Taxes may be filed and paid online on the Department of Revenue website

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.32.045: Taxes – When due and payable – Reporting periods – Verified annual returns – Relief from filing requirements.


Washington state law does not provide a smoking ban exemption for tobacco retail stores, cigar bars, or tobacconists.

State law preempts political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing requirements for the licensure and regulation of tobacco product promotions and sales within retail stores, except that political subdivisions that have adopted ordinances prohibiting sampling by January 1, 1993, may continue to enforce these ordinances. No political subdivision may: impose fees or license requirements on retail businesses for possessing or selling cigarettes or tobacco products, other than general business taxes or license fees not primarily levied on tobacco products; or regulate or prohibit youth access or sampling of tobacco products. This preemption does not otherwise preempt political subdivisions from adopting ordinances regulating the sale, purchase, use, or promotion of tobacco products not inconsistent with state law.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 70.155.130: Preemption of political subdivisions.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
State of Washington Business Licensing Service: Specialty LicensesSpecialty Licenses
Tobacco DistributorTobacco Distributor
Business License ApplicationBusiness License Application
Personal/Criminal History StatementPersonal/Criminal History Statement
Washington State Department of Revenue HomeDepartment of Revenue
Monthly Combined Excise Tax ReturnsMonthly Combined Excise Tax Returns

Political Involvement

Lobby” and “lobbying” mean attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation by the legislature of the state of Washington, or the adoption or rejection of any rule, standard, rate, or other legislative enactments of any state agency.

Neither “lobby” nor “lobbying” includes an association’s or other organizations’ act of communicating with the members of that association or organization.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 42.17A.005(30)

A “lobbyist” is any person who lobbies either on his or her own or another’s behalf.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 42.17A.005(31)

Lobbyist’s employer” means the person or persons by whom a lobbyist is employed and all persons by whom he or she is compensated for acting as a lobbyist.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 42.17A.005(32)

An “expenditure” is a payment, contribution, subscription, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value, and includes a contract, promise, or agreement, whether or not legally enforceable, to make an expenditure. “Expenditure” also includes a promise to pay, a payment, or a transfer of anything of value in exchange for goods, services, property, facilities, or anything of value for the purpose of assisting, benefiting, or honoring any public official or candidate, or assisting in furthering or opposing any election campaign. Agreements to make expenditures, contracts, and promises to pay may be reported as estimated obligations until actual payment is made.

Expenditure” does not include the partial or complete repayment by a candidate or political committee of the principal of a loan, the receipt of which loan has been properly reported.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 42.17A.005(20)

Lobbyists in Washington must register with the Public Disclosure Commission before lobbying or within 30 days after being employed as a lobbyist, whichever occurs first. To register, lobbyists must submit a Lobbyist Registration (Form L1) and a Lobbyist Identification Form. Registrations filed October 1, 2014, or later are valid until January 8, 2017. Lobbyists must also file Lobbyist Monthly Expense Reports (Form L2) on or before the 15th of each month. 

Lobbyist employers must sign their lobbyist’s L1 registration form and file a Lobbyist Employer’s Report (Form L3) annually by the last day of February.

Lobbyist and lobbyist employer reports may be filed electronically on the PDC website

A lobbyist must read and completed a training course regarding the legislative code of conduct and any policies related to appropriate conduct adopted by the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 42.17A.600: Registration of lobbyists.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 42.17A.615: Reporting by lobbyists – Rules.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 42.17A.630: Reports by employers of registered lobbyists, other persons.

Wash. SB 5861 (2019)

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
Washington Public Disclosure Commission: Filing Requirements for LobbyistsFiling Requirements for Lobbyists
Washington Public Disclosure Commission: Guides and Training VideosGuides and Training Videos

Shipping Regulations

A person may not ship or transport, or cause to be shipped or transported, any tobacco product ordered or purchased by mail or through the internet to anyone in Washington other than a licensed wholesaler or retailer.

The definition of tobacco products in Wash. Rev. Code § 70.155.010 provides the following: [f]or purposes of RCW 70.155.140 only, “tobacco product” does not include cigars defined in RCW 82.26.010 as to which one thousand units weigh more than three pounds.

Staff reported that cigars follow the same rules as tobacco products, and therefore cigars cannot be shipped to consumers in Washington.

Wash. Rev. Code § 70.155.010Definitions

Wash. Rev. Code § 70.155.140: Shipping or transporting tobacco products order or purchased by mail or through the internet prohibited – Penalty


No person other than (1) a licensed distributor in the distributor’s own vehicle, a manufacturer’s representative authorized to sell or distribute tobacco products in this state, or a licensed retailer in the retailer’s own vehicle, or (2) a person who has given notice to the board in advance of the commencement of transportation shall transport or cause to be transported tobacco products for sale in Washington state. When transporting tobacco products for sale, the transporter shall have actual possession of invoices or delivery tickets for the tobacco products. This document must include the true name and address of the consignor or seller, the true name and address of the consignee or purchaser, and the quantity and brands of the tobacco products being transported.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.140: Transport of tobacco products – Requirements – Vehicle Inspection


Additional information about licensing in Washington is available under the Operating Your Business tab above.

According to staff, Washington does not allow the shipping of tobacco products to consumers. 21 is the legal age for the sale or distribution of tobacco and vapor products. 

Washington imposes a tax on the sale, handling, or distribution of all tobacco products in the state. This tax is imposed at the time the distributor: brings, or causes to be brought, into Washington tobacco products for sale; makes, manufactures, fabricates, or stores tobacco products in Washington for sale in the state; ships or transports tobacco products to retailers in Washington, to be sold by those retailers; or handles for sale any tobacco products that are within the state but upon which tax has not been imposed. The distributor who first possesses the tobacco product in Washington is the distributor liable for the tax.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.020: Tax imposed – Deposited into the general fund.

Wash. Rev. Code. § 82.26.030: Legislative intent – Purpose.


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.