AACS welcomes illicit tobacco blitz

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has backed the Black Market Taskforce’s call for the Federal Government to blitz the illegal tobacco industry, a criminal operation that costs honest retailers of legal tobacco millions in lost legitimate sales, while putting the safety of the public at risk.

AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said the illicit tobacco market has an enormous impact on responsible retailers’ –many of whom are convenience stores and small businesses – owners and staff, not just in terms of lost business, but also from a safety perspective.

“Regulations like plain packaging and endless excise increases have resulted in Australia becoming one of the world’s most lucrative markets for black market tobacco. It is astonishingly rife in communities around the country. The illicit tobacco market has huge economic ramifications for small businesses and the Government, and is also a major public safety issue,” Rogut said.

“From a financial perspective, more than just lost sales of legal tobacco products, convenience stores face higher insurance costs and additional security needs – costs that must be borne by retailers themselves.

“Then there are the increasing safety concerns, with violent robberies targeting cigarettes being an all-too-common reality for convenience store employees. It is unacceptable that anyone should have to fear for their safety in the course of doing their job.

“The need for a strong, zero tolerance response to illicit tobacco crimes is a matter of urgency. We therefore support the Black Market Taskforce’s call for a Federal Government blitz on illegal tobacco,” Rogut said.

KPMG* estimates just under 14 per cent of all tobacco consumed in 2016 Australia was illegal. This equates to over $1.6 billion in lost tax revenue each year to the Australian Government – though some sources estimate this figure to be significantly more.

The AACS has previously called on Government to issue a clear directive so the authority responsible for policing the distribution and sale of illicit tobacco is aware of the extent of this illegal activity and its role in tracking down these criminals and bringing them to justice.

“We have also asked the Federal Government to review its policies and impose a moratorium on future tobacco excise increases so the illicit tobacco market in Australia can be brought under control and, more importantly, to stop tobacco becoming a target for violent robberies which occur with alarming regularity now, putting people’s lives at risk,” Rogut concluded.

*Illicit Tobacco in Australia 2016, KPMG, May 2017

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