We are thrilled to invite you to participate in CounterTobacco.org’s 12th Annual Point-of-Sale Tobacco Marketing Photo Contest! Each year we host this contest to showcase what’s happening in the tobacco retail environment all across the country. These images are crucial to educating the public, educating policymakers, and furthering the success of state and local tobacco control efforts that seek to reduce tobacco industry influence at the point of sale.
From October 10th – November 8th, we’re calling on you to submit photos documenting the tobacco industry’s pernicious marketing tactics in the retail environment for the chance to win some sweet CounterTobacco.org swag, bragging rights, and the satisfaction of exposing Big Tobacco’s latest scheme.
You don’t even have to go into a store to participate! We have a whole category dedicated to the tobacco advertisements that often blanket the exterior of tobacco retailers. We know many of you also have some great photos you’ve taken during store assessments or other visits to stores in the past – you can enter those, too!
The tobacco industry spends nearly $1 million every hour to market their deadly products – most of it at the point of sale. The Surgeon General has concluded that exposure to this retail marketing encourages smoking and undermines quit attempts. And it’s happening in YOUR community. Show us how by taking a snapshot and entering the contest today!
- Corrective Statements: Tobacco companies are currently being required to post “corrective statements” at the point of sale about the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke and the addictive nature of their products. This is thanks to a 2006 federal court case ruling in which major tobacco companies were found guilty of racketeering for deliberately misleading the public (learn more here or listen to our podcast episode on the topic). Help us capture which signs are being posted in retail stores near you! Where they are placed within the stores?
- Exterior Ads: You don’t have to go inside stores to participate in this year’s photo contest! We want to see how youth and adults are exposed to toxic tobacco marketing in their communities without even going in a store. Are there storefronts in your community covered in ads?
- “Modern” Oral Nicotine Products: Oral nicotine pouches; recreational nicotine lozenges, gums, gummies, and toothpicks; and other “modern” oral nicotine products are a fast growing product segment. Help us capture how these new products are being marketed and sold in stores! Are they being advertised (illegally) as cessation aids? Are they offered in youth-appealing flavors and packaging? Who are the ads targeting in your community?
- Vape Shops: What stores are selling e-cigarettes in your community and how are they changing amidst the uncertainty of federal e-cigarette regulations? How are they marketing and promoting e-cigarette products? Help us document this aspect of the retail environment so advocates can stay on the cutting edge!
- Menthol Madness: While the FDA is working on a product standard banning menthol in cigarettes, this policy, once finalized, could take years to implement. In the meantime, these deadly products that are easier to start, harder to quit are still on the market. Research shows menthol cigarettes are more prevalently advertised and more steeply discounted in African-American and low-income communities (learn more here). Document this industry targeting with a photo and send it in.
- Flavor Craze: Flavors hook kids. While the FDA has also announced their intention to issue a product standard prohibiting flavors in cigars, as with the rule on menthol cigarettes, this could take years to implement. In the meantime, flavored products remain on the market, appealing to youth. From many types of e-cigarettes to cigarillos to smokeless products, tobacco companies are creating more flavors constantly. Show us the wildest flavor or the greatest array of flavored tobacco products you’ve seen for sale. Keep a look out for the use of ambiguous “concept” flavors such as colors (e.g. “blue,” “green,” “black”) or other flavors such as “Jazz,” “Tropical Twist,” “Sweet,” and “Royale.”
- Greatest Youth Appeal: Spotted a tobacco product near candy or another child-friendly item? Discovered a tobacco advertisement near a carousel or a child-friendly mascot? Send the image our way!
- Most Ironic: Did they just put that tobacco advertisement next to …? I think they did! Sometimes the placement of tobacco advertisements next to other items or advertisements can result in some serious irony! Grab snapshots of tobacco advertisements placed next to an unlikely companion advertisement.
- Cheap & Steep: Who can find the cheapest pack of cigarettes, cheapest single cigar, or the steepest discount? The tobacco industry uses price discounts to target price sensitive customers, including youth. From little cigars and cigarillos that cost less than a dollar to steep discounts on cigarettes and BOGO offers on smokeless products, the tobacco industry has many tactics they use to sell cheap tobacco. Show us what cheap tobacco products or price discounting strategies you see in your community! This includes any ads for mobile coupons that you see in the retail environment.
- Stores near Schools (and other youth-oriented venues): 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, parks, libraries, or other youth-oriented venues as a common-sense way to reduce access and reduce retailer density. A tough photo to take but be creative with the challenge! Panorama anyone? Or try photographing tobacco advertisements next to signs that indicate that a school, park, or other youth-oriented venue is in the area.
- Targeting: The tobacco industry’s targeted marketing tactics drive disparities in tobacco use and tobacco-related harm. Marketing for any product includes advertisements based on demographics, but for a product with significant negative health impacts, like tobacco, focusing on a particular audience creates health disparities that further impact communities that are already hindered by social inequity. Document their targeted marketing campaigns at the point of sale, from military-themed advertisements to products with Spanish words in the name, from the use of stereotypical Native American images and motifs in branding and advertising to messaging and images with rural themes, from menthol ads exploiting African American hallmarks to Pride-themed ads and branding.
Contest closes on November 8, 2023 at 11:59pm ET. Official contest rules and FAQ found here.
Both winning and non-winning images that meet eligibility requirements will be permanently housed in Counter Tobacco’s image gallery. The image gallery serves as a resource for tobacco control advocates and practitioners seeking to regulate tobacco marketing at the point of sale. These images help to both educate and influence decision makers to regulate tobacco POS marketing tactics which have been shown to encourage smoking initiation among youth, undermine quit attempts, and encourage the continued consumption of tobacco products.