- Illicit tobacco is the number 1 issue, and if it’s not properly addressed, the Government’s announcement will stall
- The Government must have a strategy regarding illicit tobacco & consider adopting the recommendations by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement (PJCLE) Inquiry into Illicit Tobacco
- We urge the Government to sit down and address this issue with law abiding retailers
Today’s announcement from the Federal Government that it is exploring additional restrictions on legal, regulated, and taxed tobacco will only hurt Australian retailers further and is unlikely to decrease smoking rates, given the explosion in illicit tobacco in Australia over the last decade.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), the Master Grocers Australia (MGA) and the Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA), said illicit tobacco now accounts for one in five tobacco products consumed in Australia, costing governments almost $4 billion a year in stolen taxes, and putting the health and welfare of all Australians at risk.
“Those who deal in illicit tobacco and illegal nicotine vapes have no regard for the age of their customers, whether they are in plain packaging, or even what is in them,” said Australian Association of Convenience Stores chief executive Theo Foukkare
“Organised crime is at the centre of the illegal tobacco trade. These criminal networks deliberately target our most disadvantaged communities because they know they have higher smoking rates and are more price sensitive.
“We urge the Government first-and-foremost to develop a national strategy regarding illicit tobacco, bringing all the states together to assist in navigating the patchwork of state and federal laws and responsibility that currently exists.
“Every day a community retailer tells me they face going out of business because an illicit store has opened across the road, selling tobacco by the kilo, or loose cigarettes for less than their excise value.
Mr Foukkare said that while he accepts the Minister for Health and Aged Care has good intentions, the idea that banning menthol cigarettes or placing leaflets inside cigarette packets will reduce smoking rates is not the answer, when this illegal activity is still flourishing without enough consequences to contain it.
“These changes would make some tobacco products exclusive to the illicit market, leaving those consumers with no option but to buy from organised crime, the same black-market operators who peddle illicit drugs in our communities for profit.
“We are already seeing the wider consequences of criminal elements investing in the highly profitable illegal tobacco market, exposing consumers to substandard unregulated products and the grave effect this is having in undermining public health efforts to reduce smoking prevalence and prevent minors from accessing cigarettes and nicotine vapes.”
Mr Foukkare said that Australia’s lawful retail industry has consistently called on government at all levels, including the new government since it was elected, to do more to address the growth in the black market, both in illicit tobacco and illegal vapes, including convening a national summit looking at ways to address the black-market on vaping products.
These proposed laws will not do that – they will only make the problem worse.
“Government must accept that they can’t effect tobacco control if they can’t control the tobacco market.”
“Our position is clear. We urge the Government to consider adopting the recommendations by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement (PJCLE) Inquiry into Illicit Tobacco, as these would greatly assist us to address these problems, and to sit down and engage with the people who are doing the right thing – responsible, tax-paying retailers – and give urgent priority to fixing the black market”.
Available for Interview
AACS CEO, Theo Foukkare: 0423 003 133
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