Victoria to introduce tobacco licensing scheme

Victoria is set to adopt a tobacco licensing scheme amid a flood of illegal cigarettes and vapes, as well as dozens of associated fire bombings.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan, speaking to ABC Melbourne, said that they will be looking to bring the legislation into parliament in the second half of the year.

“We’re working through the different areas of government. This is one of those areas of government that covers a few different agencies. There’s health, there’s justice, there’s police, there’s a whole range of different areas that are intersecting.”

A licensing scheme means retailers and wholesalers of smoking products will need to hold an approved licence to sell these products.  

Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), said while AACS welcomes the announcement, it has been calling for this for several years now and have been at a loss as to why it hasn’t happened sooner.

“AACS has been actively involved in advocacy with all relevant government departments; health, police, enforcement agencies. We worked directly with the team running the Better Regulation Victoria review to put forward what we see as the best possible licensing scheme that will achieve its objectives of putting a stop to black market tobacco and vapes whilst protecting all retailers and the general community.

“Better Regulation Victoria was looking at this two years ago and there has been a report with recommendations for a licensing scheme sitting with the government for over a year. We’re pleased that the Government has read the report and taken the central recommendation for a licensing scheme.”

Foukkare said the scheme must be suitable for compliant retailers and it is important that AACS sit down with the Victorian Government now to talk through the details.

“It’s essential that it doesn’t put an unnecessary burden or cost on small businesses that have been doing the right thing. I’m sure the government does not intend for this to be burdensome.”

The Premier said the Victorian government would support small businesses through this change.

“There’s many of these small businesses that run small businesses, and we’ve got to make sure that we support them on this change because many of the shops that sell cigarettes, there’s many other products that they sell, and they’re legitimate businesses, and they’re running good, strong small businesses that we want to make sure they can continue to.”

With the right licensing scheme and enforcement measures, Foukkare believes that responsible retailers will be able to benefit from the huge amounts of lost sales over the past few years to the black market.

“Not just in tobacco sales, but also sales of all other products in their stores, as these customers come back from a footfall perspective.

The black market will be difficult to completely dismantle, however, having the right licensing framework, backed by strong enforcement by the correct bodies, will go a long way to addressing the problem, which will ultimately drive consumers back into legitimate retailers of tobacco products.”

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