Ampol has made a submission to the Senate inquiry into tobacco harm reduction, saying that convenience retailers are better positioned to help cigarette smokers transition to less harmful products, due to their convenient locations and longer opening hours.

Ampol is Australia’s largest petrol and convenience retail network with 1,900 branded sites across the country (with the majority of sites currently branded as Caltex).

In its submission to the Senate inquiry, Ampol said that it is open to working with public health authorities to trial approaches to support the aim of reducing smoking through the sale of these products through its network.

In it’s submission, Ampol made the suggestion: “Our retail staff could provide a verbal cue to customers who ask to purchase cigarettes, encouraging them to consider the alternative options available to them in-store.

“Such an approach could be very beneficial for public heal as people switch from cigarettes. This approach would only proceed on the basis that there were strong systems and processes in place to prevent exposures to youth and to non-smokers.”

Ampol employs more than 7,000 Australians and services more than three million customers each week, and are well versed in the sale of regulated products.

“As a fuel and convenience retailer, we are experienced in selling regulated products, including petroleum products and cigarettes. Cigarette and tobacco products are currently a significant revenue stream for Ampol’s convenience business,” said Ampol’s submission.

The submission goes on to highlight a “significant body of evidence which demonstrates that smoke-free products, including nicotine-based vaporisers (e-cigarettes) and smokeless tobacco products, provide smokers with a less harmful pathway off cigarettes”.

Ampol makes the point that like many convenience retailers, it is well positioned to support cigarette smokers transition to less harmful products due to its large number of conveniently located sites across Australia, with longer opening hours that other retail settings, such as chemists.

“At Ampol we have long anticipated that the views of government in relation to vaping may change to become more consistent with overseas jurisdictions once there was a recognition from Australia authorities that it represents a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

“For this reason, it is disappointing that rather than taking the best from existing regulatory environments overseas to achieve the government’s stated aim of reducing the smoking rate, Australia has instead listed nicotine as a Schedule 4 product, limiting the sale of these products to pharmacies on the basis of a prescription from a doctor.”

Ampol highlights that restricting the sale of vaping products to chemists after a GP visit is problematic, as it will put additional pressure on GP’s and chemists are less conveniently located with shorter opening hours.

“We encourage the Senate Committee to consider the public health benefits of a faster transition to less harmful products, while preserving the health system for more effective interventions and to consider the role that existing convenience retailers could take in contributing to a better public health outcome.”

The National Retailers Association also made a submission to the Inquiry proposing a regulatory framework developed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to regulate smoke-free tobacco products, based on three principles – reducing harm, helping Australian smokers, and protecting Australian kids.

The NRA’s submission follows comments by a senior Department of Health official at a Senate hearing last month that smoke-free nicotine products are safer alternatives than cigarettes.

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