Tobacco Retail Licensing in the Unincorporated Area of San Diego County
About the County of San Diego Tobacco Retail Licensing Program
The County Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance No. 10699 on December 8, 2020, which established a Tobacco Retail Licensing (TRL) Program in unincorporated San Diego County. As a result, tobacco retailers in the unincorporated area must obtain a TRL on an annual basis and comply with operating and tobacco product requirements.
On June 14, 2022, the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Diego unanimously approved a TRL fee of $730 for fiscal year 2022-23 (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023). The fee was part of a larger ordinance addressing all fees charged by the Health and Human Services Agency and can be viewed here: Ordinance Amending Article XV-B of the San Diego County Administrative Code Relating to Health and Human Services Charges and Fees.
Renewing or Obtaining a Tobacco Retail License
Eligibility requirements are listed below:
- Tobacco retailers must be licensed by California’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration (https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/).
- Facilities with onsite pharmacies are not eligible for a County TRL.
- Persons under 21 years of age are not eligible to receive a County TRL.
- County TRLs can only be transferred to a parent, child, spouse, or domestic partner for tobacco retailing at the same retail location. The transferee must meet all TRL eligibility requirements and complete and submit a Transfer of Ownership Certification Form.
- After January 1, 2022, no NEW retailers within 500 feet of a licensed tobacco retailer in the unincorporated area will be eligible for a TRL.
Retailers who were licensed by the County on or before June 30, 2022, should submit a complete application packet to renew their TRL no later than August 29, 2022. Licensed retailers will be allowed to continue selling tobacco products through August 29, 2022, without penalties. The County will NOT impose penalties for selling tobacco products without a license on a currently licensed retailer who has submitted a complete application packet on time.
NEW retailers should submit their complete application packet for a County TRL within five days of receiving a state TRL. Please note that application packets/licenses for new retailers located within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer in the unincorporated area CANNOT be approved.
Penalties and Fines for Selling Tobacco Without a License
It is ILLEGAL for retailers to sell tobacco products WITHOUT a valid TRL from both the state and the County of San Diego. Previously-licensed retailers who do NOT submit a complete application packet by August 29, 2022 will be required to immediately STOP selling tobacco products until they obtain and prominently display a valid state and County TRL. New retailers will NOT be allowed to sell tobacco products until they obtain and prominently display a valid state and County TRL. Retailers who continue to sell tobacco products without a license can be fined up to $1,000 per day, up to $50,000 in any 12-month period.
IMPORTANT! As of December 21, 2022, the state of California now prohibits the sale of most flavored tobacco products. Any retailer, their agents or employees will be fined $250 for each violation of the state law. Local jurisdictions are responsible for enforcing the law. Jurisdictions that have adopted ordinances prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products may assess higher penalties. To learn more about this law click here.
What is a Complete Application Packet?
A complete application packet consists of:
- Completed and signed Application Form
- Completed and signed Affirmation Form
- Receipt for payment of the TRL fee (payment of the TRL fee alone does NOT fulfill the requirements to renew your license or obtain a new one)
- Copy of the current state TRL issued by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
- Copy of a current driver’s license or other government ID (corporations must supply their Employer Identification Number instead of a driver’s license)
If ownership has transferred to a qualified family member, the transferee must submit a Transfer of Ownership Certification Form in addition to the above items.
If your establishment no longer sells tobacco products, please notify us in writing at TRLApplications.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov
How to Prepare and Submit a Complete Application Packet
********************READ THIS FIRST*******************
Retailers can complete the TRL forms electronically OR manually.
Retailers who choose the electronic option MUST open Adobe Reader© first in order to complete and sign the TRL forms. Retailers who don’t have Adobe Reader© can click here to download a free copy to their computer.
Retailers who choose the
manual option MUST
print the forms, complete them,
sign/initial them, and then scan them so they
can be emailed to the TRL program.
Follow the steps below to prepare and submit a complete application packet:
- Open Adobe Reader© and complete and sign the Application Form, which requests store/DBA and ownership information.
- Open Adobe Reader© and review, initial and sign the Affirmation Form, which helps retailers understand how to comply with all TRL program requirements.
- Pay the TRL fee of $730 (plus processing charges) using this link: https://payments.lexisnexis.com/ca/sandiego/trl . When the fee has been paid, select “Print”, then “Adobe PDF”, and then “Print” to save the receipt as a PDF.
-You MUST submit the receipt as a PDF as part of the complete application packet.
-You CANNOT mail the fee or pay it in person. You MUST pay online.
-Payment of the TRL fee alone does NOT fulfill the requirements to renew your license. If you have paid the fee but have not submitted a complete application packet by August 29, you will have until September 6 to submit the missing information. If you do not do so, your application will be deemed INCOMPLETE and your TRL fee, including processing charges, will be refunded to your checking account or credit card.
-If your fee is refunded, you MUST pay the fee again.
- Submit a copy of the receipt for the TRL fee
- Submit a copy of the current state TRL. A copy can be downloaded as a PDF here: https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/.
- Submit a copy of a driver’s license or other government ID (applies to retailers who are individually owned or are a partnership or LLC). Corporations must provide their Employer Identification Number on the application form instead of a driver’s license.
- If ownership has transferred to a qualified family member, open Adobe Reader© and complete and sign the Transfer of Ownership Certification Form.
- Submit the complete application packet to this email address: TRLApplications.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov . Please put TRL Application plus your store name in the subject line , as shown here: TRL Application XYZ Retailer.
- Save a copy of the Application Form. Affirmation Form, and Transfer of Ownership Certification Form (if used) for your records.
The County is offering telephonic or in-person assistance to any retailer who has questions or is experiencing problems with completing and submitting forms/attachments or using the online payment system. Please contact us at TRLApplications.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov or leave a message at 833-THE-TRLP (833-843-8757) to request assistance.
Processing the complete application packet and issuing the license will take approximately four to eight weeks. Please note that a license CANNOT be issued until the complete application packet has been submitted and approved.
Upon approval of the TRL application, the County will send the TRL to the business mailing address. Any changes to the information submitted on the application form must be emailed within five days of a change to TRLApplications.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov.
Submit a Complaint
To report a complaint about tobacco sales regulations in the unincorporated area of San Diego County, click below.
If you have questions, contact us at 833-THE-TRLP (833-843-8757) or email@example.com.
Click here to learn about local tobacco sales laws in cities within San Diego County and for information on how to help.
Resources & Information
Community Forum Informational Presentation PowerPoint (May 2022)
Ordinance Amending Article XV-B of the San Diego County Administrative Code Relating to Health and Human Services Charges and Fees
Three Year Phase in Plan for Public Health Services – Tobacco Retail Licensing Program
- Ordinance No. 10699, approved on December 8, 2020
- 4/19/22 Notice of Tobacco Retail License Fee to Retailers
- 5/9/22 Notice of Tobacco Retail License Fee to Retailers - Update
- Anticipated Health Impacts of the Tobacco Retail Licensing Program
- Requirements of the Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance
- Key Definitions of the Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance
- Compliance Monitoring of the Tobacco Retail Licensing Program
Letter to Tobacco Retailers (May 2021)
Tobacco Retail Licensing Program Timeline
Information about local Tobacco Retail Licensing programs
Clickable Tobacco Retail Licensing Fact Sheet
Webpage last updated 2/8/2023.