2019 Point-of-Sale Photo Contest Winners

Photo Contest

We asked our audience to submit photos evidencing the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics and promotional strategies at the point of sale (POS) in their own communities. We received over 70 awesome photos from 10 states, the nation’s capital, and even as far away as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Thank you to everyone who participated! The entries show just how widespread and commonplace the marketing of tobacco products is at the POS. We hope these photos will be used to help educate the public on the tobacco industry tactics at the POS and encourage local and state governments to continue their POS advocacy work. Below you can see the winners for each category. These photos can also be found in our image gallery for your tobacco control advocacy needs.

Grand Prize Winner

“Small-town convenience store fence serves as a tobacco billboard”
taken by Nancy Cripe on May 27, 2019 in Falmouth, Kentucky

The tobacco industry spends countless dollars on marketing and promotions at the point of sale. By plastering signs such as this outside and inside retail stores, tobacco companies catch the eyes of adults and youth alike. These tactics have been shown to enhance brand recognition and brand loyalty, increase tobacco product cravings and unplanned purchases of tobacco products, and reduce the number of successful quit attempts. Additionally, these exposure to advertisements like these has been shown to increase initiation and continuation of tobacco useespecially among youth.

Winners (and some honorable mentions) have also been chosen in the following categories of tobacco industry activities at the POS. Click on each or scroll down to see the category winners!

View all entries here and in our media gallery of store images and maps.


Greatest Youth Appeal – Winner

“Interesting Placement”
taken Elizabeth Beck on July 18, 2019 in Plover, Wisconsin

This one speaks for itself. Cheap, flavored little cigars and cigarillos right next to beanie babies? C’mon! 


Greatest Youth Appeal – Honorable Mentions

Left: “Easter casket” taken by Adrienne Thomas on March 28, 2019 in Elkhart, Indiana
Right: “Proximity to poisons” taken by Natasha Neira on September 1, 2019 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania

E-cigarette displays on teh counter next to candy

cigarillos on shelves accessible without clerk assitance, less than 3ft from the ground, and next to candy


Most Ironic – Winner

“Move over cessation – Juul, Marlboro, and Monster Energy Drinks are in the house”
taken by Kevin Horne on October 28, 2019 in Lincoln, Nebraska

As the CDC notes, e-cigarettes, “have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products,” and while they, “have the potential to benefit some people and harm others, scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking.”  However, no e-cigarette product has been approved by the FDA as a cessation device, and therefore cannot be marketed as such. And unfortunately, these products are serving as products of initiation for youth, with 27.5% of high school students reporting vaping and 40% of young adult e-cigarette users having never regularly smoked cigarettes.


Most Ironic – Honorable Mention

“Sweet n’ Nasty”
taken by Erika Contreras-Padilla on March 26, 2019 in Elkhart, Indiana

In August 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed new graphic health warnings for cigarettes packages, emphasizing the serious and lesser-known health consequences of smoking. One of these proposed warnings is “Smoking reduces blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.” Makes sense why tobacco products would need be placed next to male enhancement products in the retail environment, like in the photo below (click on the photo to see a more detailed version). Oh the irony…


Cheap & Steep – Winner

“Indiana convenience store fence, aka, tobacco billboard”
taken by Nancy Cripe on October 31, 2018 in Huntington, Indiana

Low prices on discount brands in Indiana. Minimum floor price policies can help eliminate these lowest price tiers and reduce socioeconomic disparities in smoking (learn more here).


Cheap & Steep – Honorable Mention

“Vapes on sale!”
taken by Laura Bach on October 26, 2019 in Azusa, California

Steep discounts on vaping devices and cigarettes alike. States and localities can take action to eliminate these enticing price promotions. Learn more here.


The Crown “Juul” – Winner

taken by Erika Contreras-Padilla on March, 25, 2019 in Elkhart, Indiana

Just earlier this year, the retail environment looked much different. Juul went from selling all their fruity, kid-friendly flavors in stores to only tobacco, mint, and menthol flavors. Earlier this month, the company announced that they will pull their popular “mint” flavor as well. Other vaping products that have mimicked Juul’s “pod mod” style are happy to fill this flavor space as we await a final rule on flavored e-cigarettes from the FDA.


Flavor Craze – Winner

“Looks like candy, tastes like candy”
taken by Erika Contreras-Padilla on March 28, 2019 in Elkhart, Indiana

From Kiwi Berry to White Peach and Magic Mango, flavors like these attract youth to try and to continue to use tobacco products. 


Menthol Madness – Winner

“Soothe to kill”
taken by Adrienne Thomas on March 28, 2019 in Elkhart, Indiana

While the FDA announced nearly a year ago that they intend to issue a product standard prohibiting menthol in cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products, we have seen no further action from the agency. It’s an issue that should have been taken care of 10 years ago, when the FDA’s Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited the use of any other characterizing flavor in cigarettes except menthol. Instead, these products remain on the market, often discounted as seen below, and heavily targeted to African American communities, making cigarettes easier to start, harder to quit, and contributing to tobacco-related health disparities.


Menthol Madness – Honorable Mention

“Definitely not cool!”
taken by Adrienne Thomas on March 26, 2019 in Elkhart, Indiana

Tobacco marketing is everywhere, even plastered over a Coca-Cola ad! A double whammy of unhealthy.


Stores Near Schools – Winner

“Cheap cigarettes near playground”
taken by Laura Bach on June 4, 2019 in Maywood, Illinois

 Research has shown that there is an increased smoking prevalence among schools located in neighborhoods that have the highest tobacco retailer density compared schools located in neighborhoods without any tobacco retailers. Many localities have also restricted tobacco retailers from locating near schools, but also near parks, libraries, playgrounds, or other youth-oriented venues as a common-sense way to reduce youth access and exposure to tobacco products and reduce retailer density.


Power Wall – Winner

“Vuse 99 cent sale”
taken by Luke Ewald on October 7, 2019 in Jackson, Minnesota

“Power walls” are the prominent shelving and advertising of tobacco products often seen at the point of sale (usually behind the counter), which easily draw attention to tobacco products and can prompt impulse purchases. Tobacco companies often establish contracts to pay retailers for this prime merchandising spot. Check out all the price promotions in the photo, like the limited time offer for a $0.99 Vuse and $0.50 off when you buy 2 Marlboro packs. Note also the variety of products – cigarettes, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, little cigars and cigarillos, and even emerging nicotine pouch products Zyn and Velo. 


International – Winner

“Power wall near school stationery – Youth Appeal”
taken on October 17, 2019 in Islamabad, Pakistan by Qamar Iqbal

Tobacco companies market their products just as heavily in the retail environment in other countries, including at stores near schools.



Fan Favorite – Winner

“Less than 500 feet from a School”
taken by Heidi Blake on August 16, 2019 in Warsaw, Indiana

As evidenced by this picture, tobacco retailer facades are often overtaken with tobacco industry marketing materials, including at stores near schools.



In addition to winners and honorable mentions for all categories, you can find all photo contest submissions along with other captivating images of POS tobacco industry tactics in our image gallery.

Why Does CounterTobacco.Org Host an Annual Photo Contest?

The Surgeon General has concluded that “advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.” [1] The tobacco industry spends the majority of their marketing budget at the point of sale promoting its deadly products.[2] CounterTobacco.org is dedicated to providing tools and resources to counteract retail tobacco product sales and marketing. The photo contest and image gallery expose the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics in hopes of educating communities, and especially youth, about the dangers of tobacco retail marketing. Education and exposure of the industries’ tactics are critical to building awareness and serve as a first step in the policy change process. These photos offer tobacco control advocates a powerful tool to show what is happening at the point of sale.

With the tobacco industry wielding its influence and dollars at the point of sale, policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels are critical. Learn more about counteracting retail tobacco products sale and marketing.

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