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Your Quick Guide to Tobacco In-Store Promotion: 4 Tips

Fines, lawsuits, and losing your license.

These are all consequences of failing to comply with tobacco advertising laws. It’s not easy to promote your tobacco products — you need to stay on top of federal, state, and local promotion laws. 

Yet, despite tight regulations, there are opportunities to market tobacco products effectively and lawfully. In-store promotion is one of those opportunities.

This article highlights four in-store promotion tips to help you advertise your tobacco and vape products without falling foul of the law. We’ll also show you which tools can help make your marketing a success.


In-Store Promotions: Understanding Tobacco Advertising Laws

Keeping up with the rules and regulations around tobacco is tough. The goalposts change often, and different states have different laws. However, to advertise tobacco, you need to know what you can and can’t do — so it’s worth finding out what the restrictions are in your local area.

Related Read: The Basics of Selling Tobacco: Laws, Regulations, and Requirements

Here’s what you need to consider:

    • Don’t advertise to minors: You cannot advertise in a way that appeals to minors. This includes tactics like colorful imagery or using cartoon characters to make smoking attractive to young audiences. In many cases, you can’t advertise near schools or playgrounds.
    • Apply health warnings and labels: Any ad for tobacco products must feature a prominent health warning, emphasizing the health risks of using tobacco products. Don’t obscure or downplay these warnings.
    • Don’t offer free samples: Free samples are often a great way for customers to try before they buy. Unfortunately, offering free tobacco samples in all 50 states is illegal. You also can’t use endorsements or testimonials that help create intrigue around tobacco products.
  • Research state and local regulations: While tobacco laws are similar in all 50 states, some are more strict than others. For example, the minimum age to purchase tobacco is 21 across all states — but not every state enforces it. Check local regulations to be sure.

Related Read: Vape Marketing 101: Strategies and Regulations for Smoke Shops

Violations can lead to fines, lawsuits, or even the closure of your store. Be diligent and keep up to date with local laws and regulations. All of that said, what can you do to advertise your tobacco products? Let’s look at some in-store promotion ideas.

Tip #1: Get Creative With Your Store Layout and Design

Your store's layout and visual merchandising can make all the difference in sales. But you still need to play by the rules.

Think carefully about product placement. You want your best products to stand out without veering into promotional territory. For example, you could place new products on endcaps so they catch the eye.

Related Read: Maximize Your Layout: Smoke Shop Design Ideas To Try in 2024

Create dedicated zones. For example, a cigar zone could have an eye-catching display and educate consumers about different flavors or cigar rolling history. Education instead of promotion is a way to get eyes on your products without breaking the rules.

Last, use in-store signage. Remember, bright colors and flashy fonts aren’t allowed, but monochrome designs still attract eyes to specific displays or products. Get creative with store layout and visuals without pushing sales too hard.

Tip #2: Educate With Technology

Digital displays are always a good way to capture attention. 

For example, try a digital display with a QR code. When customers scan the code with their smartphones, they’re taken to web pages providing deeper insights into tobacco types, origins, and responsible consumption practices. Ensure the web pages require age verification before accessing the content so you still comply with age-restriction regulations.

Another tool you can use is a tobacco point of sale (POS) system

A POS system with built-in marketing features like personalized promotions and loyalty programs is helpful. Based on purchase history, you can identify regular customers — already age-verified — with a preference for certain brands or types of tobacco products. Send these customers targeted offers through email or SMS.

Tip #3: Offer Loyalty Programs and Incentives

With an industry-specific POS system, you can easily manage loyalty programs and reward repeat customers. For example, a tiered program could reward customers based on frequency, average basket size, or product variety.

Higher levels unlock perks like free tobacco accessories, invitations to special events, or exclusive promotions. Just make sure your program terms adhere to state and federal laws.

Related Read: How To Manage a Tobacco Loyalty Program for Your Store

You could also offer loyalty discounts on non-tobacco products like lighters, cutters, or branded merchandise. For example, if a customer reaches a monthly threshold for tobacco purchases, you could send them a 20 percent discount code for your online store’s accessories section.

Tip #4: Promote Limited-Time Offers

While you can’t discount tobacco products, you can try limited-time offers. Examples include:

  • Offer a complimentary coffee or a small non-tobacco gift with any purchase.
  • Promote an exclusive in-store event — a cigar rolling demonstration, for instance — available only to customers who purchase during the promotional period.
  • Try monthly specials that highlight specific brands. For example, you could feature a rare tobacco batch that’s only available for a short time to drum up interest.

Promotions, limited-time offers, and in-store events are fun opportunities to educate customers and entice them to purchase new products without using promotional tactics.

Related Read: Marketing for Smoke Shops: 5 Cigar Promotions To Boost Your Sales

Tobacco In-Store Promotions: Get Creative

As a tobacco store owner, you walk a fine line to promote your products. The trick is to stay on the right side of the law and use creative tactics to promote products without actually promoting them.

Education, in-store signage, and loyalty programs are great ways to engage your customers within regulatory guidelines.

We briefly mentioned a tobacco POS system earlier. It’s an essential tool for any tobacco, smoke, or vape shop owner. From age verification tools to built-in customer loyalty features, your POS system is a powerful tool for managing your store.

Cigars POS has all the features you need, including:

  • Age verification software and hardware
  • Built-in customer loyalty
  • Inventory management, including an unlimited product database and carton-pack inventory tracking
  • Prebuilt and customizable reports
  • High-risk payment processing

…and more.

To see Cigars POS in action, request a demo with our tobacco experts today.

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