Bondi Junction tobacconists get record fine

The owners of Free Choice Tobacconist in Bondi Junction have been served with a $72,000 fine for selling cigarettes in packages without health warnings. They have been banned from selling tobacco from that store until August 2018.

A tip-off by a member of the public prompted inspectors from South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) Health Unit to visit the store earlier this year.

The couple were subsequently charged with 36 tobacco-related offences, carrying a fine of $1000 per offence, per person.

The record fine was handed down in Waverley Local Court last month.

Jeff Rogut, CEO Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) says, “From our point of view, we encourage the authorities to crack down on illegal tobacco. It doesn’t matter whether it’s being sold in stores, at the markets, or out of the boot of a car. The reasons for this is that it affects legitimate retailers, these people are not paying tax and, with these imported products, consumers don’t know what they’re getting.

“While smoking isn’t healthy, [with unregulated products] consumers don’t know what the ingredients are or where they’re from so that poses an additional health risk. We hope that this is enough to encourage the Department of Health and the Cancer Council to get involved in the fight against illegal tobacco,” says Mr Rogut.

Illegal tobacco consumption in Australia is now estimated to be worth up to $1.61 billion in foregone excise revenue, highlighting the need for a coordinated national approach to combat black market smuggling and production.

A spokesperson for Imperial Tobacco Australia says this significant penalty will deter other retailers and businesses from selling illicit tobacco.

“We have been advocating for greater enforcement and tougher penalties at the retail level for some time. Our intelligence has shown that illicit tobacco is being sold through legitimate retailers. Preventing a retailer from being able to sell legal tobacco is a major disincentive.

“A national anti-illicit tobacco strategy is needed to help coordinate industry and law enforcement efforts to ensure ongoing support for dealing with this serious criminal issue.

“A National Anti-Illicit Tobacco Strategy was introduced in the UK in 2000 and has since reduced the illicit cigarette market from 22% in 2000-01 to 10% in 2013-14, resulting in a reduction in lost revenue from £3.4bn to £2.1bn (AUD5.7bn – 3.5bn),” said the spokesperson.

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