The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has
warned that the proposed Tasmanian Bill to increase the legal age of Aussies to buy tobacco to 21. will exacerbate the problem of the illegal cigarette trade in Australia.
AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said that raising the legal age will cost jobs in the convenience industry and motivate Tasmanians to buy from the black market, which in turn could harm the economy.
“Australia has experienced a huge spike in the illicit tobacco trade, fuelled by the regulatory environment of regular and excessive excise increases on legal tobacco, and spiralling since the introduction of plain packaging,” Rogut said.
“Should the proposed Bill become law in Tasmania, a position which would be at odds with the rest of the nation, it would represent another free kick to the criminal gangs supplying the black market. It’s already illegal for people under 18 to purchase tobacco. Black market criminals have proven exceptionally capable of supplying illegal tobacco to minors, with the average age people start smoking being 16 years.
Rogut said that the Bill could see the black market gain more customers with criminals profiting and small businesses losing out.
“We are concerned about the economic consequences of the proposed Bill, both for our members and for Tasmanian businesses more broadly, as well as the freedom of choice implications for adult consumers,” added Rogut.
According to KPMG, the proportion of illicit tobacco as a proportion of the total tobacco market in Australia is over 14 per cent costing the economy more than A$2 billion a year.