Why policy is important

Why these policies?

CounterTobacco.org’s policy solutions provide recommendations to help tobacco control advocates build support for and enact policies to counteract the sale and marketing of commercial tobacco products in the retail environment.

Selected based on research evidence, best practices in the field—research, legal practice collaboration, expert consensus, theories of human behavior, and evidence from the field (natural experiments);[1] this set of policy solutions present a menu of evidence-based, flexible strategies to help local, state, and federal practitioner select the best and most effective solutions to counter commercial tobacco sales and marketing in their communities. These pages contain the evidence, guidance, next steps, and resources to help practitioners develop and implement strong POS policies, as well as Stories from the Field to provide examples of successful policy implementation in communities across the United States.

The time is right. With the commercial tobacco control battle shifting to the “War in the Store,” many of the same best practices for community mobilization that have been effective in implementing other tobacco control policies can be used for POS strategies as well. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products to protect public health. It also gave states and communities the ability to restrict the time, place, and manner of tobacco product promotions and advertisements.

Map depicting increases in state point-of-sale activity across US from 2012 to 2015
POS Policy Activity is increasing across the country POS Policy Activity Scores in 2012 and 2015, from the Point Of Sale Report to the Nation: Realizing the Power of States and Communities to Change the Tobacco Retail and Policy Landscape 


It is important to consider POS work as one part of a broader tobacco control policy effort in your state or community. Strategic planning for a comprehensive retail tobacco control effort will help you determine which policies provide an appropriate approach for your community. Retail tobacco strategies are also key to the tobacco control “endgame” and can serves as a “booster” to the core strategies in the Tobacco Control Vaccine.[1] Learn more in our podcast episode on the Tobacco Control Vaccine Booster.tobacco control vaccine booster illustrating the four original components: price increases, smoke-free policies, hard hitting media campaigns, and cessation access along with components of the vaccine "booster": product availability, pricing and promotion, advertising and display, age of sale, and retail licensure

The information on these pages is no substitute for actual legal advice. As the tobacco industry has a long history of engaging in legal battles over policies that restrict tobacco sales and advertising, consult with legal centers from such as the Public Health Law Center, ChangeLab Solutions, the Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center on proposed policy language.

Where to start

Which evidence-bases strategy should your community pursue and when? There’s no ‘right’ answer for every community. When crafting a point-of-sale strategy, consider: 

  1. Epidemiological and surveillance data
  2. Macro retail environment data
  3. Micro retail environment data
  4. Current policy context
  5. Local legal feasibility of policy options
  6. Potential for public health impact
  7. Political will

Learn more about each of these “data springs,” sources for each type of data, and how they can inform policy change. For help with the examining the macro and/or micro retail environment in your community or state or developing a point-of-sale tobacco control strategy contact our team at Counter Tools.

Point of Sale Policy Resources:

Cover of ChangeLab Solutions' "Point-of-Sale Playbook"



ChangeLab Solution’s Point of Sale Playbook provides an overview of POS policy options and learn about the foundational steps for creating a regulatory framework to support POS work.

Cover of "Deadly Alliance" Report



The Deadly Alliance: How Big Tobacco and Convenience Stores Partner to Market Tobacco Products and Fight Life-Saving Policies provides more background on the importance of focusing on the retail environment

Cover of Spring 2014 "Point-of-Sale Strategies - A Tobacco Control Guide"



The Point-of-Sale Strategies from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis provides guidance on emerging strategies to limit the sale, display, and advertising of tobacco products in the retail environment

Cover of Winter 2014 "Policy Strategies - A Tobacco Control Guide"



The Policy Strategies guide from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis provides guidance on how to work with the media, coalitions, decision makers, business owners, and communities to pass tobacco control policies including increasing the cost of and restricting access to tobacco products

Cover of Winter 2014 "Pricing Policy - A Tobacco Control Guide"



The Pricing Policy guide from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis provides focuses on how to implement policies that effectively raise the cost of tobacco products

Cover of "What surrounds us shapes us: Making the environmental case for tobacco control"


For strategies and information on framing: Berkeley Media Studies Group’s What surrounds us shapes us: Making the environmental case for tobacco control

Cover of California Department of Public Health’s "Tobacco in the Retail Environment" Fact Sheet



California Department of Public Health’s Tobacco in the Retail Environment Fact Sheet, an overview of policy options

Cover of Tobacco Control Network's "2016 Policy Recommendations Guide"


The Tobacco Control Network’s 2016 Policy Recommendations include, but are not limited to, point of sale policies. The recommendations declare a vision and direction for those policy and system changes which the Tobacco Control Network membership believe are most important to reducing and eliminating the health issues caused by tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.

Cover of The Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center's "Oh Snap! Countering Tobacco Industry Opposition to Local Tobacco Controls"


The Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center’s “Oh Snap! Countering Tobacco Industry Opposition to Local Tobacco Controls” provides practitioners and public health advocates with information and evidence to refute arguments from industry opposition to common-sense tobacco controls at the local level.



Be aware of preemption, which means that the laws at a higher level of government take precedence over the laws at a lower level of government. Learn more about options for POS activities in states and localities that are preempted.

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