While the illicit tobacco trade in Australia is well known to government and police officials, new claims have come out that tobacconists are employing sneaky tactics to promote cigarettes.
Customers are reportedly being asked by retailers if they would like to “try” new flavours of cigarettes, a crime punishable by harsh penalties for anyone caught advertising or promoting cigarettes.
According to the Public (Tobacco) Act of 2008, anyone caught doing this will be fined $550,000 which then rises to $110,000 for any time after that.
The Cancer Council’s director of public policy Paul Grogan said Australia’s illegal tobacco trade was a lot smaller than it seems, he told News.com.au.
“The statistics are nowhere near as dramatic as they claim. We’ve seen seizures of illicit tobacco all around Australia which means the system is working. No one will risk prosecution over access to things that are not popular across the population. We do what we need to do to reduce smoking in the population,” he said.
In a statement released earlier this morning Australasian Association of Convenience Stores CEO Jeff Rogut said criminals were taking advantage of cigarette legislation.
“For too long, criminals have taken advantage of the gaps that exist around regulation of illegal tobacco, and have literally been driving trucks laden with contraband through those gaps,” he said.
“The trade is booming — and cigarettes have become the most valuable commodity for crime gangs. Our stores and our staff are victims of terrifying smash and grab robberies on a daily basis.”
Mr Grogan however, insisted that figures surrounding the illicit tobacco industry were exaggerated.
“Only 33 per cent of smokers are aware of illegal tobacco and of that, 11.4 per cent of them actually smoke illicit cigarettes. We know that the illicit trade exists but the extent is highly exaggerated as a way to try and undermine effective health campaigns to stop smoking,” he said.
He said the tobacco industry held much more control than it first appeared.