No time to draw breath for tobacco packaging

Claire Heaney
Herald Sun
April 05, 2012

CONVENIENCE stores and milk bars are demanding an extension to the compulsory roll-out date for tobacco plain packaging.

Under Federal Government reforms to laws governing cigarette sales, retailers can only sell cigarettes in standardised green packages from October 1.

They must not sell any branded packaging after December 1. But the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores and the Convenience and Mixed Business Association say the retailers will not have enough time to embrace the reforms before hefty fines are imposed.

ACSC executive director Jeff Rogut said it was not an issue of whether the industry supported the harm minimisation strategies, but more about enabling its members to cope.

“Not only do convenience store operators have to make a profit within the constraints created by the most powerful grocery duopoly in the world, but they are on the front line and carry the brunt of the burden of legislative changes and health concerns about diet and smoking,” he said.

Mr Rogut said the government had made no attempt to understand the ramifications for battling businesses. He said many convenience store operators would be left with worthless cigarettes they were unable to sell. The changeover period should be extended to the end of March or April, 2013, he said.

Mr Rogut said some of the retailers might decide to wind back their orders early so they don’t get stuck with stock, but that meant they would lose sales.

“They will lose the sale and all the other sales that come from people when they go to buy a packet of cigarettes,” he said.
CAMBA executive director Domenic Greco said it would be a huge problem for milk bars and corner shops.

“They are giving every single store in Australia just eight weeks to sell out of every single cigarette they have,” he said.
Opposition Small Business spokesman Bruce Billson supports the call for a moratorium.

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