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Tobacco and Smoking

Citizens Count Editor

New Hampshire prohibits smoking in public places, taxes tobacco sales, and spends money each year to educate the public about the dangers of smoking. However, some advocates believe New Hampshire should expand smoking bans and spend more to discourage cigarette use.

NH tobacco and smoking laws

Indoor Smoking Act

In 2007 New Hampshire outlawed smoking in restaurants, schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and other public places.  It is also illegal to smoke in the workplace, unless the employer sets up an enclosed area for smoking. E-cigarettes were added to the indoor smoking law in July, 2019. 

Any person who smokes where smoking is prohibited can be charged with a violation that carries a $100 fine. If a business owner does not comply with the law against indoor smoking, he or she will be charged a fine of at least $100 for every day of the violation. 

Click here to see New Hampshire’s Indoor Smoking Act

Age to purchase tobacco products

You must be 19 to purchase or possess tobacco or e-cigarette products in New Hampshire. That age limit increased from 18 to 19 in January, 2020. A person who violates this law may be fined up to $100 for each offense and/or required to complete community service. Anyone who sells or gives tobacco products to someone underage will be fined $250 to $3,000, depending on if they are guilty of previous offenses. The state may also suspend or revoke the license of a retailer that repeatedly sells to minors.

Towns in New Hampshire have the power to raise the age to purchase cigarettes above 18. In 2018, Dover became the first town in New Hampshire to pass such a law, increasing its smoking age to 21.

Many other states have stricter laws than New Hampshire to protect youth from smoking.  For example, some states have laws against smoking in a car with young children. other states and municipalities require cigarette buyers to be at least 21 years old

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program

In 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that New Hampshire spend at least $16.4 million each year to prevent tobacco use. That’s more than 10 times what New Hampshire generally budgets for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, which averages roughly $1.2 million.

The program measures tobacco use, monitors compliance with the Indoor Smoking Act, and educates the public and health care providers about tobacco addiction and treatment.

Most of the money for the program – about $1 million per year – comes from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The remainder comes from the state general fund of tax dollars.

Revenue from tobacco products

Tobacco tax

New Hampshire taxes the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products, like chewing tobacco. The tax for a pack of twenty cigarettes is $1.78. This is slightly higher than the national average tax on a pack of cigarettes, which is $1.72. One dollar of that tax goes to the general fund and $0.78 goes to the Education Trust Fund. Tobacco taxes provide about 9% of general fund revenue and about 10% of Education Trust Fund revenue. The Education Trust Fund funds public schools in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire will began taxing e-cigarette products in January, 2020. 

Click here to learn more about state school funding in New Hampshire

Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement

In 1998 46 states settled a group lawsuit against tobacco companies over the public health care costs of smoking.  The settlement requires those companies to make annual payments to the states based on annual tobacco sales. Each year New Hampshire transfers the first $40 million of settlement payments to the Education Trust Fund. Any money in excess of $40 million is transferred to the general fund of all tax revenue to spend however the Legislature chooses.

E-cigarette laws in NH

E-cigarettes or vaporizers are battery-operated electronic devices that convert liquid solutions into vapor, which users then inhale. There are vapor solutions containing nicotine as well as non-nicotine solutions.

As of July 2019, they are included in New Hampshire's indoor smoking laws, which means you can't vape in bars, restaurants, or other enclosed spaces where people work.

You must be 19 to purchase e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine in New Hampshire. E-cigarette products are also taxed.

Other laws

There are no New Hampshire laws that regulate the packaging or marketing of cigarettes, although the federal government has some restrictions.

Some policymakers have tried to prohibit the purchase of cigarettes with welfare money.  Click here to learn more about that debate.

Citizens Count Editor

"NH should pursue more policies aimed at reducing smoking."

  • According to a report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9% of health care spending in the United States is attributable to the ill effects of cigarette smoking.  More than half of that spending is paid for by public programs, such as Medicaid. New Hampshire could therefore save a significant amount of taxpayer dollars if fewer residents smoked. 
  • New Hampshire has the lowest cigarette tax in New England by twenty-two cents. Meanwhile raising New Hampshire’s tax by just 10 cents a pack could raise millions more dollars each year for the state to spend on the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program – more than doubling its current budget.
  • While the number of youth using tobacco has decreased in recent years, e-cigarettes have gained widespread popularity among youth. The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that about one-third of New Hampshire high school seniors use e-cigarettes. There is still relatively little regulation of e-cigarettes, yet there is growing evidence that e-cigarettes contain cancer-causing chemicals. To protect youth from the harms of e-cigarettes, New Hampshire needs to start regulating e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products, including a ban on vaping indoors.
  • From 2012 to 2016, the rate of children exposed to e-cigarette liquid increased by more than 1000%, from 0.7 per 100,000 to 8.3 per 100,000, with an even higher peak of 10.4 per 100,000 in 2015. This indicates there is a pressing need to require child-proof packaging of liquid for e-cigarettes.
  • It is already illegal for anyone under age 21 to purchase or consume alcohol, in part because of the negative health effects. Cigarettes should be treated the same.
  • It is unethical to spend money from the Tobacco Master Settlement on anything other than policies and programs to reduce smoking.
Citizens Count Editor

"NH should not pursue more policies aimed at reducing smoking."

  • Smoking is declining under New Hampshire’s current laws and policies. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the number of New Hampshire youth who smoke cigarettes has decreased by about half over the past decade. In 2015 just 9% of students under age eighteen said they smoked, compared to 19% in 2007. This decline shows that New Hampshire’s current efforts to discourage smoking are effective.
  • If New Hampshire raises its cigarette tax there is a good chance it will neither deter smokers nor increase revenue. Instead, at least one study has found that raising cigarette taxes increases the black market for cigarettes. Right now many people from Massachusetts and other nearby states purchase cigarettes from New Hampshire to sell on the black market in their home states. If New Hampshire raised its cigarette taxes, smugglers would buy fewer cigarettes in New Hampshire, while Granite State smokers would simply turn to the black market.
  • Since low income individuals are more likely to smoke than wealthier people, raising the cigarette tax would essentially be raising taxes on the poor. 
  • Convenience stores and grocers have testified that raising the age to buy cigarettes from 19 to 21 years-old would lead to a sharp decline in cigarette sales that would lead to lay-offs.
  • Towns in New Hampshire already have the power to raise the age to buy cigarettes, so action at the state level is not needed.
  • The choice to smoke cigarettes is ultimately a personal decision. If an eighteen year-old is old enough to join the military and give his or her life for the United States, then he or she should be old enough to make the decision to smoke.
  • E-cigarettes may not necessarily contain harmful substances or even nicotine, so it does not make sense to lump e-cigarettes in with regular cigarettes under state law. If the state starts regulating e-cigarettes and licensing vape shops like other cigarette retailers, it will lead to an expensive expansion of bureaucracy and discourage economic activity around e-cigarettes. 
  • Since e-cigarette manufacturers are based across the U.S., e-cigarette regulations, such as child-proof packaging, are best left to the federal government.


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How can people believe the state wants to decrease the amount of cigarette smoking in NH when the government reaps a huge share of the proceeds? Are we to believe that the state is working as hard as it can to bring cigarette smoking to a halt, even if it means slashing 9% of general fund revenue? This is why government should not try to legislate morality through sin taxes and prohibitions.​

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