Queensland police have uncovered more than 150kg of illicit tobacco and cigarettes in Innisfail, and a 29-year-old New Zealand woman has been charged.
Two search warrants were executed on Wednesday 18 January after multiple reports from the community. Police allegedly uncovered more than 87kg of cigarettes in fake packaging (65,600 individual cigarettes), illegally imported vape products and a quantity of cash in an Owen Street motel room.
Police will also allege around 70kg of loose tobacco and cigarettes in fake cartons and non-compliant packaging were located at a shop on Ernest Street.
The woman has been charged with one count each of possession of tobacco (100 kgs or above), offence to buy or possess S4 or S8 medicines or hazardous poisons, selling or supplying tobacco products in non-compliant retail packaging and possess tainted property.
She is due to appear before Innisfail Magistrates Court on 27 February.
Far North District Acting Detective Inspector Jason Chetham said these imported vapes and illicit tobacco products often contain dangerous chemicals, which are banned in Australia and internationally.
“These products can have serious health implications for innocent members of the public who purchase them trusting they are compliant,” he said.
“We urge anyone with information in relation to the possession of illicit tobacco or non-compliant products to contact police.”
Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), has praised the efforts of Queensland police, but says that further enforcement is required to stub out the issue of illicit tobacco.
“We applaud the efforts of the Queensland enforcement agencies in making these sorts of illicit trade busts. However, there is a lot more work to do on this rampant issue, it’s the tip of the iceberg so to speak,” says Foukkare.
“AACS along with other retail associations are working closely with the Queensland Government on tightening current regulations, including the introduction of retail tobacco licensing, which will enable local enforcement agencies such as QLD Police and Health inspectors more power to act with urgency, when unscrupulous retailers are suspected of selling illicit tobacco and nicotine vaping products.
“The fact that we have been working on these important changes for some 14 months now, is frustrating for all and the illicit trade problem has only increased during this time. When the changes are put in place with a whole of government approach, including additional policing resources, the outcome will see swift and broader action taken.”