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. This law is intended to protect the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke. 

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 eighteen to purchase or possess tobacco or e-cigarette products in New Hampshire.  A teenager 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 a minor 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 eighteen. In 2018, Dover became the first town in New Hampshire to pass such a law.

Many other states have stricter laws than New Hampshire to protect youth from smoking.  For example, nine states have laws against smoking in a car with young children. Five states, and municipalities in fifteen other states, require cigarette buyers to be at least twenty-one years-old. Attempts in recent years to pass bills that would raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes or ban smoking in cars with minors in New Hampshire have failed.

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 ten 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. $1 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.

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

Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement

In 1998 forty-six 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-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.

Right now, e-cigarettes are not included under New Hampshire’s tobacco laws. This means, for example, that there is no state-level ban on ‘vaping’ in bars or restaurants, though businesses have the power to ban e-cigarettes, and towns can ban e-cigarettes from public areas like parks or beaches. 

However, you must be eighteen to purchase e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine in New Hampshire. 

The Legislature has considered bills to ban e-cigarettes from all public places, to regulate the contents of e-cigarettes, and to require child-proof packaging for e-cigarettes.  None of those bills have passed.

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.


"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

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

  • According to a 2014 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 ten 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 twenty-one 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.

"Against" Position

By 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 eighteen to twenty-one 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 is 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.


Signed by Governor

Bans smoking on state park property. The House amended the bill to instead give the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources the option to restrict smoking at state parks.

Tabled in the House

Prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle if a passenger is under age sixteen.

Killed in the House

Ends the exemption for premium cigars from the tobacco tax.

Signed by Governor

Adds e-liquid, e-cigarettes, vape pens, etc. to the law banning youth access to tobacco products. The bill also adds e-cigarettes and similar devices to the Indoor Smoking Act. The Senate amended the bill to allow minors prescribed medical marijuana to possess e-liquid containing cannabis.

Signed by Governor

Reorganizes and amends the tobacco tax law, as requested by the Department of Revenue Administration. For example, this bill removes references to "sub-jobber" in favor of "wholesaler." The bill also authorizes some additional fines.

In Committee

Revises the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, vape pens, and similar products. That means those devices would be taxed and regulated similar to cigarettes.

In Committee

Prohibits towns from establishing a minimum age to purchase a product that is higher than the minimum age in state law.

In Committee

Raises the age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

Killed in the House

Requires any "e-liquid" - a liquid designed for inhallation using a vapor product - to list its ingredients on a label. This bill also bans e-liquids containing certain ingredients, particularly diacetyl, acetyl propionyl, or acetoin.

Interim Study

Taxes moist snuff at $1.68 per ounce. At the time of this bill's submission, moist snuff is taxed like other tobacco products, at a rate of 65.03% of the wholesale price.

Tabled in the Senate

Increases the age for sales and possession of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age.

Killed in the House

Adds premium cigars to the tobacco tax, which is 65% of wholesale prices.

Killed in the Senate

Includes e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine in the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program.

Tabled in the House

Revises in the Indoor Smoking Act to allow smoking in many public places, including grocery stores and restaurants, unless the private owner chooses to ban smoking.

Tabled in the Senate

Taxes chewing tobacco at a rate of $1.55 per ounce, rather than a rate of 65.03% of the wholesale price.

Killed in the Senate

Changes the definition of e-cigarette to include devices that do not contain nicotine. This bill also includes e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products for purposes of sale and licensure requirements.

Tabled in the Senate

Prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle if a passenger is under age sixteen.

Killed in the House

Requires child resistant packaging for e-cigarette cartridges.

Killed in the House

Establishes a committee to study the consequences of tobacco use by minors in New Hampshire.

Killed in the House

Creates a 15% tax on the wholesale price of premium cigars.

Killed in the Senate

Adds e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine to the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program.

Interim Study

Broadens the definition of "tobacco products" for the purpose of licensing tobacco retailers.

Killed in the House

As introduced, this bill would include e-cigarettes in the indoor smoking act. The bill was amended to require child-resistant packaging on e-cigarettes and establish a study committee on revising the indoor smoking act.

Killed in the Senate

Prohibits smoking in a motor vehicles when a passenger under the age of 18 is in the vehicle

Killed in the House

Uses tobacco tax and tobacco settlement funds to reduce the education property tax.

Vetoed by Governor

As introduced, this bill makes a variety of changes to the tobacco tax laws. The bill was amended to modify business taxes so that a company going public does not have to pay the 8.5% business profits tax on any increase in the company's value from the sale of shares.

Should NH pursue more policies aimed at reducing smoking?


Mike Dunbar
- Hampton

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 11:58am

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.​


Log in or register to post comments

Issue Status

Language that would've raised the smoking age to 21 was included in the state budget, but that was vetoed. 

The state did pass a law prohibiting people under age 18 from buying or using e-cigarettes or vaping products. 

The town of Franklin is the latest to consider raising the age for purchasing tobacco to 21. 


Here in NH, your opinion counts. We make it easy to find and reach out to your elected officials about the issues that matter most to you. Click to search and contact your elected officials!

Join Citizens Count

Join our constantly growing community. Membership is free and supports our efforts to help NH citizens become informed and engaged. 


©2018 Live Free or Die Alliance | The Live Free or Die Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.