Spray paint comes in a variety of colors, is easy to use, and allows you to do everything from spiff up old lawn furniture to create works of art. But spray paint is also the primary tool for “taggers,” or those who deface property with graffiti. Some people also inhale paint fumes in order to get high, a habit that can lead to brain damage and even death. In an effort to cut down on spray paint abuse and graffiti, states have passed laws regulating the sale of spray paint. Each state and city has the power to establish its own laws regarding spray paint sales; there are no national laws. Check with your city and state to determine the laws in your area.


Chicago banned the sale of spray paint within the city limits in 1992. The ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1995. No other major city has gone this far; most restrict sales in other ways, but still allow adults who are willing to show identification to make purchases.

Sales to Minors

Many spray paint sale laws deal with the sale of spray paint to minors, both to reduce the use of paint for graffiti and to reduce spray paint inhalation abuse. States such as Texas forbid the sale of spray paints and other volatile chemicals to anyone under the age of 18. New York bans sales to anyone under 21. Retailers may require purchasers to show identification proving they’re over 18 in order to purchase spray paint. Some stores have cash registers that require the cashier to enter ID information, such as a driver’s license number, in order to sell spray paint, while other locations, such as Portland, Oregon, require retailers to record information about the purchaser in log books.


Many laws require retailers to keep spray paint behind locked doors or in locked cabinets. Anyone who wants to buy spray paint must request assistance from an employee. This cuts down on minors stealing spray paint, but also makes it more difficult for legitimate purchasers to obtain the paint. The sales clerk must verify age and in some cases, identity, before the clerk unlocks the cabinet and hands over the spray paint.


State and local laws may require retailers to display signs noting the regulations for purchasing spray paint. For instance, in Texas, retailers must display a sign, in both English and Spanish, stating that it’s unlawful to sell abusable volatile chemicals to anyone under 18, it is unlawful to inhale such chemicals “in a manner designed to affect the central nervous system” and buyers must present proper identification in order to purchase such chemicals.

Other Considerations

You may need to obtain a special permit in order to sell spray paint at your store. Your state or city code enforcement officer will tell you what regulations you need to follow, including any record-keeping requirements or signs you must display.