Major retail groups say review is critical for stamping out the booming black market for tobacco products

The leaders of three national retail groups representing thousands of businesses across the country have welcomed the Queensland Government’s announcement of a review of smoking laws in the state and their important intent to stamp out illicit trade.

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 they looked forward to working with Health Minister Yvette D’Ath through the review process and to addressing this vital issue.

“This is a recognition of the damage that illicit tobacco is inflicting on law-abiding businesses, communities, and the economy of Queensland,” the associations said in the joint statement issued by AACS chief executive Theo Foukkare, MGA chief executive Jos de Bruin, and ALNA chief executive Ben Kearney.

“The terms of the review include an overdue focus on stamping out illicit tobacco. Introducing licensing for tobacco sales will bring Queensland into line with national best practice and help properly identify legitimate retailers from those doing the wrong thing.

“It’s appropriate that the Health Minister is leading the review but we are keen to see vital enforcement strategies take a multi-agency approach, that includes Queensland police. It’s critical that new licensing rules are backed up by appropriate resources for police and other enforcement agencies.

“Announcing a plan to introduce licensing is one thing but enforcing it to address these broader issues requires a comprehensive response.

“Illicit tobacco sales have been growing rapidly in Queensland, and there have been multiple reports of brazen flouting of the existing laws by non-compliant retailers.

“Licensing is an important first step in addressing illicit tobacco, but police will also need appropriate powers to disrupt the unruly syndicates that are driving the black market trade.

“We welcome Minister D’Ath’s initiative and look forward to working with her through the review process.”

In 2020 Australians lost out on almost $3 billion in revenue from tobacco excise, while retailers lost profits from sales – and those profits can help create jobs for Queenslanders.

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