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S.H.A.F.T. and Prohibited SMS Content in the US & Canada
S.H.A.F.T. and Prohibited SMS Content in the US & Canada

This information is not legal advice. We do our best to provide useful information as a starting point.

Rachel avatar
Written by Rachel
Updated over a week ago

Just like any other marketing channel, SMS follows strict regulations, industry standards, and guidelines. Before using it to market products, promote sales, or simply communicate with shoppers, you must be familiar with the guidelines on prohibited or limited content. At TxtCart, we look after our users and want to make sure you send only the highest quality messages to your subscribers, are compliant with all regulations, and are respectful of customers.

The following article will go through those prohibited or limited-content categories and explain how TxtCart enforces restrictions.

Note: These guidelines are aimed at merchants who wish to use SMS marketing in the US & Canada.

Prohibited or limited message categories

Federally illegal substances

This category includes all federally illegal substances such as:

  • Marijuana/cannabis (including CBD)

  • Vaping

  • Prescription medication

  • Kratom (labeled as a controlled substance by the DEA)

Note: These are strictly prohibited for SMS marketing - TxtCart does not onboard brands selling these, no exceptions.

Merchants who promote federally illegal substances will be blocked, will not be able to send messages in the US & Canada, and will see the following banner on their TxtCart dashboard.


If your account has been blocked, please contact us to see if there is a unique work around for you. This is on a case-by-case basis.


S.H.A.F.T. (SHAFT) is an acronym that stands for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco. It outlines the categories of text messages specifically regulated due to moral and legal issues and is monitored and enforced by the CTIA and the mobile carriers.

Sex (adult content), Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco are federally legal and can be marketed through SMS as long as a functioning age gate is in place. The age gate needs to prompt the user to enter their birthdate, rather than just click “Yes” to approve that they’re over 21.

S.H.A.F.T can only be sent via designated shortcodes and not via toll-free Numbers. To apply for a designated short code, contact us.

Although not technically a law, the S.H.A.F.T. guidelines should be taken seriously by anyone using SMS to communicate with consumers to comply with the CTIA best practices and carriers’ requirements.

Cannabis-Derived Products

We understand that several states have already, or are moving to, legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis and CBD use. However, Federal Law still prohibits cannabis use. Therefore you cannot send text messages with cannabis or CBD-related content. The carriers have made it clear that they will suspend any shortcode that sends this content.

If your brand falls under a sex, hate, firearm, or tobacco (CBD--included) category, we understand TxtCart is here to serve you as a resource when policies change to re-allow sending.

Other Prohibited Content

Other than the S.H.A.F.T. content restrictions, the CTIA also calls out several different message categories that must be excluded from all SMS communications:

  • Depictions and endorsement of violence

  • Profanity

  • Hate/discriminatory speech

Refer to the CTIA’s Handbook, section A.5, for additional information.

Carrier SPAM Mitigation

Mobile carriers are not only responsible for the distribution of text message content but act as gatekeepers between a brand and its customers. Each mobile carrier has the right to issue its own guidelines when it comes to text message content. For example, such content may include high-risk financial services, gambling, multi-level marketing, etc.

Occasionally exceptions are made for specific use cases, but only after scrutiny by the service provider and mobile carrier. Reach out to us if you have a request or question about any of the above-mentioned policies and regulations. We are happy to discuss alternative ways to market to your audience and remain compliant with both the TCPA and CTIA guidelines.

This is the prohibited or limited content you should be familiar with before sending promotional messages in the US & Canada. Don’t hesitate to go to our Knowledge Base for more useful articles, or contact us if you have any questions or feedback.

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