The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (ACCS) says a new South Australian report on e-cigarettes represents “one step forward, three steps back”, with the industry body taking aim at the review’s recommendation preventing convenience stores selling e-cigarettes.

Jeff Rogut, CEO of AACS, said the report from the Select Committee, is in some ways more progressive than other states, but it falls “disappointingly short” in key areas.

The final report made 20 recommendations including prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, requiring health warnings on packaging and childproof caps and banning the use of e-cigarettes in areas that are smoke-free. It also recommended that retailers selling e-cigarettes would require a licence and that the advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes and related products including pricing specials be banned.

“The South Australian report includes several sensible, logical and necessary recommendation which the AACS supports, such as restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, ensuring the products are child tamper proof, contain an ingredients list and meet minimum safety and quality standards,” Mr Rogut said.

“But at the same time it includes some highly concerning recommendations that require urgent reconsideration. For instance, to disallow the retailing of e-cigarettes at the same point of sale as traditional tobacco products completely undermines the ability of these products to provide smokers a healthier alternative.

“If there is a chance that some smokers looking to quit will benefit from the use of these products, government owes it to them to create a framework that provides this option. Regrettably, the South Australian report makes recommendations that will limit the accessibility of e-cigarettes, driving negative health and economic outcomes,” he said.

Mr Rogut singled out Recommendation 4 of the final report as a key concern, as it suggests retailers should “Require a licence to sell e-cigarettes and/or components … this licence may not be held in conjunction with a licence to sell tobacco products or any other products”.

Further, the Select Committee states in its report: “For a retailer to be eligible for this licence they must demonstrate they are a standalone, specialist e-cigarette store. The purpose of this restriction is to encourage e-cigarette users to not revert to use of tobacco cigarettes due to the ease of purchasing both products at one point of sale. Ideally the committee would like tobacco products to be limited to speciality tobacconists with the same conditions.”

“It is baffling that the Select Committee would recommend that convenience stores should be prevented from providing customers with a safer, healthier product. Being able to conveniently offer a better alternative to smokers looking to kick the habit represents a major opportunity for government to reduce smoking among the population,” Mr Rogut said.

“It also provides significant economic opportunities for small businesses in their efforts to compete against the major supermarket chains. E-cigarette products are suited to the convenience store model and have significant potential to drive revenue growth.

“For the committee to cite a preference for traditional legal tobacco to be restricted to specialist tobacconists shows its complete dismissal of the economic implications and represents an over-stepping of the mark,” Mr Rogut said.

E-cigarettes set to surpass traditional cigarette sales  

In the US, convenience industry analysts predict the sale of e-cigarettes will soon surpass traditional cigarette sales. Research by Wells Fargo indicates US retail sales of electronic smoking devices could top the $10 billion mark by 2018 due to ongoing interest by both manufacturers and consumers.

“The US market demonstrates the potential for e-cigarettes to be an effective tool to help people reduce smoking and seek alternatives. It stands to reason that adults in Australia should have this option more easily available to them as well,” Mr Rogut said.

“However to capitalise on the potential health benefits it’s essential for governments to avoid subjecting e-cigarettes to the same tax treatment as other restricted product categories like tobacco and pharmacy products.”

The Select Committee on e-cigarettes in South Australia recommended in its final report that the state Government investigate taxation of e-cigarettes and peripheral products, a move Mr Rogut said could further undermine the potential health benefits of e-cigarettes.

“If e-cigarettes are viewed as just another source of tax revenue it would be a wasted opportunity. The framework to govern the sale of these products must recognise that e-cigarettes are a potential solution to reduce the incidence of smoking,” he said.

“If they are to be too heavily taxed then those who could stand to benefit might be discouraged from investigating this solution. There is also a small but growing black market for e-cigarettes to consider.”

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