Retail industry leaders welcome regulatory review to tackle Victoria’s tobacco black market

Representatives of thousands of small businesses say stronger police enforcement powers, appropriate licensing of tobacco sales, and on the spot fines are key to addressing the booming ‘chop chop’ market.

The leaders of three major national retail representative groups representing thousands of businesses across the country have today welcomed reports that the Victorian Government will review its tobacco regulation framework with a view to cracking down on the burgeoning black market, which is now worth billions of dollars and costs an estimated $800 million in lost taxation revenue across Australia.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), the Master Grocers Association (MGA), and the Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA) said any review must balance the urgent need for a crackdown on illegal tobacco sales through mechanisms such as a licencing scheme without creating unnecessary red tape for legitimate and law-abiding retailers.
Reports today say Victoria’s Commissioner for Better Regulation will carry out an independent review of the state’s tobacco laws, and provide recommendations on licensing, compliance and regulatory powers.

“The Victorian Government is to be congratulated on this important step,” the associations said. “Illegal tobacco sales don’t just hurt legitimate businesses. They funnel significant profits into the black economy that has widespread impacts on Australian communities.

“The easy availability of ‘chop chop’ is common knowledge in the community and can no longer be ignored. Tobacco retailing licenses, combined with stronger enforcement powers and tough on the spot fines are a set of sensible measures that raise the stakes for people who sell illegal products, and make the job of enforcement much easier,” the associations said in the statement, issued by AACS chief executive Theo Foukkare, MGA chief executive Jos de Bruin, and ALNA chief executive Ben Kearney.

“Victoria’s illicit tobacco industry goes beyond retail sales, as evidenced by the ongoing seizures of illegal crops and stolen or illicit cigarettes by law enforcement. Regulation has a vital role in signalling strong deterrents and we look forward to supporting the work of this review.”

Victoria and Queensland are the only two states that do not have regulated licensing schemes for the sale of tobacco.

Theo Foukkare is available for interview: 0423 003 133

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