We advance place-based public health by helping our partners implement and enforce policy, systems, and environmental changes that promote health equity across communities.

We aim to reduce the detrimental impact of unhealthy substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy food at the consumer’s primary point of exposure and access: the retail environment.

Healthy choices

Counter Tools draws on the best available science and an evidence-based model of change to help state and local partners reduce the impact of products that harm the health of individuals and communities. Based on a community’s needs, our work focuses on prevention strategies, enforcement tactics, or a combination of both.

With a team of public health experts, we offer extensive training, technical assistance, and advanced technology aimed to increase our partners’ capacity to build healthier communities for all.

Model of Change

We use an evidence-based model of change to empower communities to become healthier places for all.

  • Document the local problem

  • Formulate policy solutions

  • Engage strategic partners

  • Raise community awareness

  • Persuade decision makers

  • Implement, enforce, and evaluate

Our Services

Counter Tools provides an assortment of professional services to meet the needs of our partners. We provide support, guidance, and best practices for advancing public health and empowering communities to become healthier places.

Click on the links below to learn more about our services.

Technical Assistance

Counter Tools provides personalized consultation with public health practitioners at the state and local level. Our expertise is on point-of-sale related efforts such as:

  • the policy change process
  • pros and cons of policy initiatives
  • ways to reach and mobilize a community
  • how to garner political support

We help partners set achievable intervention goals based on contextual factors, capacity and readiness. Our expert project managers communicate with state and local-level staff and their community partners to plan strategies, discuss progress, and celebrate successes. Our work has been successful in improving collaboration between agencies, and we convene thought leaders in the field to share ideas across state lines.

Our team works closely with identified stakeholders throughout planning and implementation to facilitate the structure needed for an authentic power-sharing process that empowers everyone involved to be heard and influence change.

Photo of team member advising partner

Storytelling and Data Visualization

Counter Tools provides data visualization and storytelling materials that states and local areas use to educate decision makers, community members, and other stakeholders. These materials tell the story of a community’s retail environment or other conditions of the built environment to inform policy change and interventions. Data stories can take the form of infographics, maps, reports, and other communication materials.

Photo of team member with data visualization


Counter Tools offers in-person and web-based training designed to engage participants based on best practices for adult learning and youth facilitation and build community capacity to create positive change. Training often includes dynamic discussion around a community’s challenges as well as goal setting for policy implementation based on a community’s needs and guidance on evidence-based strategies.

Each training event we lead is planned, coordinated, and facilitated in close collaboration with local partners.

Technology Tools and Services

Counter Tools builds and maintains technology tools to assist our partners with data collection and management, visualization, mapping, and reporting. We offer proprietary tools that are used by multiple clients, as well as custom-built tools designed for specific states or agencies. We also offer data management services to clean, analyze, and upload data to our tools, ensuring standardization and data integrity.


The Point-of-Sale Toolkit (POST) is a user-friendly, web-based platform that provides the tools needed for successful data collection, data management, visualization, and analysis relevant to retailers where tobacco, alcohol, and other products are sold and marketed.

  • Integrate data from multiple agencies, such as state agencies, FDA, and Synar and build a comprehensive retailer list
  • Collaborate across teams with multiple user roles to collect data, identify trends, and create reports relevant to your communities
  • Visualize the impact of policy change with enhanced mapping capabilities and explore health disparities among populations and geographic areas

POST is available on a subscription basis and may include account services such as data uploads, retailer list management, user management, campaign management, and more.

Policy tester map of tobacco retailers with pharmacy counter


Counter Tools provides free resources to empower leaders to make informed decisions that improve the health of their community. We stay up-to-date on public health news, convene thought leaders, and share insights with our partners.

Webinar on laptop

Our Work


Assessing 100% of Tobacco Retailers: Virginia’s Ground Truthing Project

Counter Tools entered into a project with Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to create an accurate state-wide tobacco retailer list, utilizing data integration and ground truthing work. Deepening local understanding of the effect of the tobacco retailer environment on health enabled Virginia to develop a statewide infrastructure for tobacco use prevention and control.


Youth Empowerment and Advocacy: Reality Check’s Fight Against the Tobacco Industry

Reality Check is a youth-led program that focuses on the tobacco industry’s marketing practices and teaches youth how to be community leaders and educators. Counter Tools has partnered with Reality Check since 2015 to conduct training sessions that highlight the industry’s targeting of youth, minorities, and lower-income neighborhoods with point-of-sale tactics. Besides gaining foundational knowledge, youth are also trained on advocacy and social justice and participate in rallies outside the annual Altria shareholder’s meeting. In recent years, the event has become a multi-week virtual event that includes youth groups from a variety of locations, and features training sessions, social media advocacy, and other interactive activities.


Florida’s Alachua County – Leading the Way on Tobacco Retailer Licensing, Tobacco 21, and Restrictions Near Schools

Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco-Free Florida has partnered with Counter Tools since 2013 to survey the retail environment and spread awareness around healthy retail, and in more recent years the work has shifted focus to passing policies. Counter Tools provided training and message framing on why the retail environment matters and an increased understanding of tobacco retailer licensing and relevant strategies. In January 2019, Alachua County implemented a local tobacco retailer licensing policy, raised the minimum legal sales age for tobacco to 21, and required any new tobacco retailers to be located at least 1000ft away from schools.


Using Local Data to Pass Policies for Tobacco Prevention in Golden Valley, Minnesota

Counter Tools has partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to help support local areas in the state in their pursuit of policy change around tobacco and in 2019, the suburban city of Golden Valley passed a number of comprehensive tobacco prevention policies. Counter Tools provided a data collection tool, an online mapping tool, analyzed data and created infographics, which local grantees used for communication and engagement with key stakeholders. The assessment and mapping data were strategic elements that helped bring awareness to and educate the Golden Valley’ City Council and community on the tobacco landscape and its impact on citizens.


Addressing and Improving the Landscape of Food and Alcohol Products in Stores – A Wisconsin Success Story

We partnered with Wisconsin Department of Health Services to assist with data collection, provide understanding, and support change related to alcohol and food products in the retail environment. We analyzed assessment data at both the county and state-level and created infographics and factsheets. The coalitions shared these with community members, decision-makers, and other stakeholders to raise awareness about the importance of a healthy retail environment.


Report with Truth Initiative – Surveying How the Tobacco Industry Markets Flavors in Five Midwestern Cities

Counter Tools and Truth Initiative partnered to develop a set of retail tobacco store assessment questions specifically focused on menthol and other flavored commercial tobacco products. The new form fSTARS was piloted in two cities and later revised to reflect the evolving market for flavored e-cigarette products and tested in three additional cities. The final report examines how flavored tobacco products are marketed and sold in those 5 U.S. cities. The participating cities received training and technical assistance from Counter Tools and Truth Initiative, and data analysis was completed by Counter Tools.


Geographic Surveillance Learning Collaborative for Comprehensive Cancer Control and National Tobacco Control Programs

The Geographic Health Equity Alliance (GHEA) and Counter Tools partnered to create the Geographic Surveillance Learning Collaborative for National Tobacco Control Programs and National Comprehensive Cancer Control. The primary objective of this collaborative was to build the capacity of state programs to conduct surveillance of tobacco policies in a format that adheres to the methods and principles of the field of policy surveillance. Seven states participated in the Year 1 Collaborative and shared how they used geographic surveillance to support program planning, identify health disparities and improve communication strategies and policy efforts.


Kansas high schoolers participate in summer project to learn about the tobacco retail environment

Background Tobacco marketing and promotions saturate retail stores in most communities—the same places where students might stop for an afternoon snack on the way home from school. The tobacco industry spends about $1 million per hour marketing their products, most of it at the point of sale. In Kansas, it is estimated that the tobacco industry spends $68.3 million [More]

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