Can You Mail Cigarettes or Other Tobacco Products? The Rules and Regulations of Shipping Tobacco

Mailing cigarettes, tobacco, and other related products is heavily regulated by the USPS and private carriers like FedEx. This comprehensive guide will explain the rules around mailing tobacco domestically and internationally.

Shipping cigarettes or tobacco through the mail may seem like an easy way to get your fix or send gifts, but it’s important to understand the legal restrictions. We’ll cover whether you can mail cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, vaping products, and more. Plus, what are the penalties if you break the rules?

There are good reasons for the tight regulations. But if you know the specific laws, you can legally send tobacco products to recipients of legal age in limited circumstances.

Let’s explore common questions around mailing cigarettes and tobacco to fully understand the dos and don’ts.

Can You Mail Cigarettes with USPS?

The United States Postal Service (USPS) allows you to ship some tobacco products but has prohibitions on others. In general, you cannot use USPS to mail cigarettes.

USPS defines cigarettes as:

  • Any roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or any substance not containing tobacco.

So that includes traditional name-brand cigarettes like Marlboros or Newports. It’s illegal to ship cigarettes through the USPS.

You also cannot mail electronic cigarettes or vaping products containing liquid nicotine. Those are also prohibited.

However, USPS does allow you to mail some tobacco products within the United States, including:

  • Cigars
  • Smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco or snuff
  • Pipe tobacco

There are some caveats around properly packaging and labeling these tobacco shipments, which we’ll explain shortly.

But the main takeaway is that mailing cigarettes via USPS within the U.S. is prohibited. Other tobacco products like cigars and smokeless tobacco can be shipped domestically through USPS under certain conditions.

What About Mailing Cigarettes with FedEx or UPS?

Like USPS, private carriers FedEx and UPS also prohibit mailing cigarettes. However, UPS does not consider cigars to be cigarettes, so you can ship cigars domestically via UPS.

FedEx aligns with USPS regulations and allows shipments of cigars, pipe tobacco, and smokeless tobacco products. But cigarettes and vaping products cannot be shipped.

One key difference between mailing with USPS vs. FedEx/UPS is that private carriers allow you to ship smokeless tobacco and cigars internationally to certain countries. USPS prohibits all international shipments of tobacco.

So FedEx and UPS give you more options for shipping tobacco internationally. But within the U.S., the same prohibitions on mailing cigarettes apply.

Are There Any Exceptions Where You Can Mail Cigarettes?

There are very limited circumstances where mailing cigarettes may be allowed:

  • Some Native American reservations allow tobacco shipments to and from reservation addresses.
  • You may be able to mail cigarettes internationally if both the origin and destination countries permit it. However, USPS will not facilitate international cigarette shipments.

Beyond that, there are no exceptions that allow you to mail cigarettes or e-cigarettes within the U.S. via USPS, FedEx, or UPS. Even if both parties consent, it’s still illegal.

Can You Mail Smokeless Tobacco and Cigars?

As we covered, smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco, snuff, etc. can be mailed domestically under the right conditions.

The same goes for cigars – you can legally mail them within the U.S. through USPS or private carriers.

Here are some key regulations you need to follow:

  • The tobacco can only be mailed between someone age 21+ and another adult recipient age 21+.
  • Proper labeling and marking as tobacco products is required.
  • Hazardous materials shipping standards apply in some cases.

We’ll explain these rules in more detail shortly. But the main point is that tobacco like smokeless or cigars can be mailed within the U.S. when following the right steps.

What Are the Rules for Shipping Smokeless Tobacco and Cigars?

To legally mail smokeless tobacco and cigars, you need to follow some key packaging, labeling, shipping method, and age verification requirements.

Here are the top things to know:

  • Package it correctly – Smokeless tobacco must be in a sealed tin or pouch. Cigars need to be in a wood, metal, acrylic, or cardboard box that won’t easily break. You cannot ship loose tobacco or individual cigars.
  • Pay attention to sizes – USPS and other carriers have size and weight restrictions. A single package of cigars or smokeless tobacco cannot exceed 70 lbs.
  • Mark it properly – The sealed packaging must be clearly labeled as “tobacco products.” Indicate that an adult signature (age 21+) is required.
  • Use proper mailing options – Certain mailing options like USPS Certified Mail have age verification at delivery, ensuring an adult signs. UPS requires an adult signature on tobacco shipments.
  • Only send between adults – The sender must be 21+ and take steps to verify the recipient’s age like requiring an adult signature at delivery. You cannot mail tobacco products to those under 21.
  • Follow hazardous materials rules – For some quantities, smokeless tobacco and cigars must comply with hazmat shipping standards like special labels and markings indicating it cannot be loaded on a passenger aircraft.

As long as you take those steps, you can legally mail smokeless tobacco products and cigars to recipients age 21+ located domestically.

What Are Hazmat Rules for Mailing Tobacco?

Certain quantities of tobacco trigger hazardous materials (hazmat) shipping requirements enforced by USDOT and the FAA. Here is an overview of key hazmat rules if you want to mail cigars or smokeless tobacco:

  • Quantities matter – You must comply with hazmat rules if mailing >50 cigars or >50 lbs of smokeless tobacco in a single shipment.
  • Hazmat certification – The shipper must have hazmat employee training if required quantities are exceeded.
  • Proper labels – Hazmat labels like the Class 9 Miscellaneous label must be applied.
  • Cargo aircraft only – Large hazmat tobacco shipments can only go on cargo aircraft and are prohibited on passenger aircraft.

So if you plan on mailing over 50 cigars or 50 lbs of smokeless tobacco in one shipment, be aware it falls under hazardous materials shipping rules. Make sure to use proper hazmat handling, labels, employee training, and cargo-only aircraft.

As we mentioned, USPS prohibits mailing any tobacco products internationally. But some international shipments of tobacco are allowed with FedEx or UPS.

The key things to know:

  • Limited destinations – FedEx and UPS only allow international tobacco shipments to select countries. Each carrier has a country listing of where they will ship tobacco.
  • Adult recipient – The recipient in the destination country must also be an adult of legal tobacco purchasing age in that country. An adult signature is required.
  • Duty paid – Any duties or taxes in the destination country must be paid by the recipient upon delivery.
  • Customs forms – Accurate customs paperwork must be completed for the international tobacco shipment.
  • No cigarettes – Only smokeless tobacco and cigars qualify for international shipping. Mailing cigarettes internationally is universally prohibited.

As long as both origin and destination countries allow it, you can legally mail smokeless tobacco and cigars internationally via FedEx or UPS following proper protocols. Be sure to consult each carrier’s allowed tobacco destination list.

What Are the Penalties for Illegally Mailing Tobacco?

There are legal risks and penalties associated with mailing cigarettes or tobacco products improperly. For instance:

  • The USPS considers illegally mailing cigarettes as mail fraud, which can include fines or imprisonment up to 5 years for a single violation.
  • Shipping unlabeled tobacco or shipping to those under 21 can result in state or local penalties.
  • Individuals can face fines from transport regulators for violating hazmat shipping rules.
  • Restricted international shipments may be confiscated by customs agents and not make it to the recipient.

The penalties vary based on the type and severity of the violation across local, state, and federal laws. But it’s important to remember there are legal consequences to mailing tobacco improperly. When in doubt, consult an attorney.

Key Takeaways on Shipping Tobacco Products:

To summarize the key points on mailing cigarettes, tobacco, and vaping products:

  • You cannot mail cigarettes at all through USPS or private carriers.
  • USPS allows domestic shipments of smokeless tobacco and cigars only following packaging, age, and hazmat rules.
  • FedEx and UPS permit domestic and select international shipments of smokeless/cigars following regulations.
  • E-cigarettes with liquid nicotine also cannot be mailed under current laws.
  • Ensure recipient is of legal tobacco age, package is marked properly, adult signature is required, and hazmat rules followed when applicable.
  • Penalties for improperly shipping tobacco can include fines or imprisonment.

While mailing tobacco domestically or internationally has tight restrictions, it can be done legally in some circumstances. Understand and follow all applicable USPS, carrier, legal, and hazmat regulations to ship tobacco without issue.

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