Illicit tobacco dealers will continue to cash in on selling dodgy products to unsuspecting Australians 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. 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 products.
“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 numbers,” said Foukkare.
“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.”
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 smoking has stagnated.
“The Government’s data shows smoking numbers have flatlined.”
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 nothing to crack down on the black market in his time as Health Minister.”
Foukkare continued that under Mark Butler’s watch, one in four cigarettes sold now comes 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.”
Foukkare said criminals were also cashing in on illicit nicotine vapes, with that black market worth over AU$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 entering Australia, but they’ve conceded they do not have the resources to do that.
“Yet, the announcement by Mark Butler doesn’t address the black market at all, which means it’ll only continue to grow.
Foukkare concluded that Australia’s black-market trade in tobacco and vapes was a national disgrace, and Mark Butler’s new laws, without any enforcement measures, would only worsen this crisis.