Review: The Fall of Cigarette Vending Machines

Formerly ubiquitous tobacco vending machine sales are now banned under a 2010 FDA measure.


Back in the 1970s and 1980s, cigarette vending machines could be found in nearly every restaurant, bar, convenience store, and gas station. At the time I was an enthusiastic bar-hopping chain smoker, so I cherished their ubiquity. Since then, they have been largely banished from the American commercial landscape.

In 1989, Utah became the first state to enact a total ban on cigarette vending machines in locations accessible to minors. This focus on vending machines was a bit odd since a 1992 article in the journal Tobacco Control reported that minors obtained 71 percent of their tobacco from over-the-counter sales, 19 percent from friends, 7 percent from parents, and just 3 percent from vending machines.

A decade later, a total of 19 states and the District of Columbia had also banned them from areas accessible to minors. The Food and Drug Administration struck the final blow in 2010 when, pursuant to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the agency banned tobacco vending machine sales nationwide, with the exception of adults-only facilities.