The Surgeon General says that exposure to retail marketing encourages smoking and undermines quit attempts. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s reports on marketing expenditures for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, in 2022, the tobacco industry spent over $8.3 billion to advertise and promote their cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in the retail environment. This marketing hooks youth and makes it harder for people who currently smoke to quit. 

Each year, you help capture the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics at the point of sale. These images are all added to our media gallery, which is a resource for tobacco control advocates seeking to educate decision makers about issues in the tobacco retail environment, and they are crucial to educating the public and furthering the success of state and local tobacco control efforts that seek to reduce tobacco industry influence at the point of sale.

View this year’s winning entries here!

See this year’s categories, contest rules, and FAQs below.  View our full image gallery for more images of tobacco industry marketing at the point of sale.

2023 Submitted Photos: 

Content Requirements

Photos submissions can fall in ten different categories which include:

  • 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 are they 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 is working on a rule 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.

Please avoid including people’s faces in your photo submissions. Any faces in photos will be blurred before posting.


  1. Anyone over the age of 13 can participate in the Photo Contest.
  2. Deadline for all photo submissions is 11:59pm EST on November 8, 2023.
  3. The person submitting the photo will be considered the Contestant and will be the only person eligible to compete for the prize. In order to be eligible to win the prize, you must provide accurate and complete information.
  4. The following individuals are not eligible to enter the Contest: employees, directors and officers of: the Contest Sponsor (
  5. Once a photo submission has been accepted for entry into the contest, the contestant’s name and location may be publicly identified at the sole discretion of the Contest Sponsors.  All contestants have the right to request their name not be publicized in connection with their contest submission.  Contestants must inform the Contest Sponsor of this wish when registering for the contest.

Contest Sponsor

 The Photo Contest is sponsored by

Retouching of Photos:

The submitted contest photograph cannot be significantly retouched: nothing in the photographs may be altered, removed, augmented or rearranged. Cropping is permitted, as is modest darkening or lightening of parts of the image.


  • You are not posting any content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortuous, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.
  • You are not posting any content that harms minors in any way.
  • You are not posting any content that you do not have a right to make available under any law or under contractual or fiduciary relationships.
  • You are not posting any content that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights of any party.
  • You acknowledge that and its designees shall have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to pre-screen, refuse, or remove any content at any time.
  • You agree to allow and its designees to use (reproduce, encode, store, copy, transmit, publish, post, broadcast, display, adapt, exhibit and/or otherwise use or reuse) your images in any media, without limitation, and without additional review, compensation or approval.
  • You forever waive any rights of privacy, intellectual property rights, and any other legal or moral rights that may prevent’s from using the images submitted, or that may require the participant’s permission for to use the image for any purpose, and you agree to never sue or assert any claim against’s use of the images submitted.
  • You agree to hold and its respective affiliates, directors, partners, and any employees harmless from any and all claims, damages, expenses, costs, and liabilities brought or asserted by any third party against any of the Indemnities due to or arising out of the participant’s entry materials or additional materials, or the participant’s conduct in connection with this contest.
  • You agree to allow to add you to its periodic e-newsletter that features point-of-sale updates and news developments. Users may unsubscribe at any time.


Winners will receive a Counter Tobacco prize pack that includes fun merchandise such as water bottles, pins, notebooks, etc. Winners will be announced and contacted by November 16th, 2023.


Why does Counter Tobacco host an annual photo contest?

To continue to replenish the Counter Tobacco media gallery with fresh, up-to-date images, we encourage users to take photos of the point of sale through an annual photo contest. Eligible contest submissions are added to the Counter Tobacco media gallery which is a resource for tobacco control advocates seeking to educate decision makers about the POS issue. These images are crucial to educating the public and furthering the success of state and local tobacco control efforts that seek to reduce tobacco industry activity at the point of sale.

Where or what is the ‘point of sale’?

The point of sale is a brick-and-mortar location where tobacco is sold. It typically refers to the area around and behind the counter of a retail location, as well as the exterior area of a store such as the store front and/or parking lot. Tobacco advertising is frequently found in and around convenience stores and gas stations.

Can you show me some examples of “good” POS images?

Yes! Check out our 2012201320142015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, and 2022 photo contest winners and honorable mentions.

Why does Counter Tobacco want my mailing address?

We would like to send you a thank you gift for participating in our contest! As long as we have enough swag, every contestant will get some love! Your information will not be shared with any third parties.

Does Counter Tobacco accept international entries?

Yes we do! In the past, we have been able to ship prizes and thank you gifts internationally, however please remember that our ability to ship to certain locations may be limited.

What is in the Counter Tobacco prize pack?

Get excited – Counter Tobacco prize packs will contain an assortment of branded goodies such as pens, stickers, notebooks, water bottles, car chargers and more! is a project of Counter Tools. Counter Tools (logo)