Illicit tobacco dealers will continue to cash in on selling dodgy products to unsuspecting Aussies, despite the Federal Government’s planned changes to tobacco laws, the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has warned.
AACS CEO Theo Foukkare said the organisation’s 6500 member stores supported measures to reduce
smoking rates in Australia, however the changes announced by Health Minister Mark Butler today will only fuel the black market that has limited health outcomes by flooding Australia with cheap unregulated
“The illegal tobacco black market is booming because there’s next to no enforcement on the ground in
stopping what’s known as ‘chop-chop’ and cheap imported branded products from being sold in huge
“We support effective public health measures, but we do fear that moving to a standard sized cigarette
package will encourage even more consumers to turn to the black market and give a free kick to the illegal operators to hide their products in plain sight,” Mr Foukkare said.
Retailers across Australia have reported a 15 to 20 per cent decline in tobacco sales, however Federal
Government data shows that the number of Australians who are smoking has stagnated.
“The Government’s data shows smoking numbers have flatlined,” Mr Foukkare said.
“Bad policy and failed enforcement have resulted in smokers not quitting, but quitting legal tobacco to purchase cheaper, unregulated black-market products.
“These proposed laws will only worsen this crisis, particularly when Mark Butler has done absolutely nothing to crack down on the black market in his time as Health Minister.
“Under Mark Butler’s watch one in four cigarettes sold now come from the black market and over 90 per cent of all vaping products are illegally purchased.
“The tobacco excise has played a big part in that, and illegal tobacco is now worth more than a staggering $4 billion in lost government excise.
Mr Foukkare said criminals were also cashing in on illicit nicotine vapes, with that black market worth well
over $3 billion.
“That’s a combined $7 billion tax-free black market that’s putting the health of unsuspecting Australians at risk and costing the economy huge amounts in lost taxes.
“Border Force officials are doing their best to stop illicit tobacco from getting into Australia, but they’ve also conceded they just do not have the resources to do that,” he said.
“Yet, today’s announcement by Mark Butler doesn’t address the black market at all, which means it’ll only
continue to grow.
“Australia’s black-market trade in tobacco and vapes is a national disgrace and Mark Butler’s new laws –
without any enforcement measures – will only make this crisis worse,” Mr Foukkare said.
Theo Foukkare is available for interview: 0423 003 133
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