Representatives of thousands of small businesses say tougher penalties on illicit tobacco sales is needed to halt criminal tobacco trade.

The leaders of three major national retail groups representing thousands of businesses across the country have today welcomed a push from South Australia legislators that would see increased financial penalties inflicted on those who trade in illicit tobacco products, a market now worth billions of dollars 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 Lotteries and Newsagents Association (ALNA), said tougher penalties were overdue as the tobacco black market had increased in activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

SA Best’s Connie Bonaros and Frank Pangallo are calling on the South Australian Government to implement harsher penalties against those who trade in illicit tobacco.

“It’s great to see South Australian legislators to be pushing for a crackdown on the illicit tobacco trade,” the associations said. “Illegal tobacco sales don’t just hurt legitimate businesses. They are a major source of funding for the black economy which has widespread impacts on Australian communities.

“The easy availability of ‘chop chop’ is common knowledge in the community and can no longer be ignored,” 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. 

“Like other states, South Australian retailers are dealing with declining sales as the illicit tobacco industry steals legitimates business from hard working shop owners. Strong regulation has a vital role in signalling strong deterrents.”

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