The Queensland Government is currently exploring the merits of introducing a licensing scheme for the sale of tobacco products throughout the State. This investigation was prompted by the recommendations of a Parliamentary Inquiry into tobacco retail licensing in Queensland.

A copy of the Committee’s report can be downloaded at (https://acapmag.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Attachment-1_Committee-Report-No19_licensing.pdf).

Handed down in April 2016, a key recommendation of the Inquiry was that the State Government ‘consider implementing a positive wholesale and retail tobacco licensing scheme in Queensland, giving weight to appropriate licensing fees and avoiding unnecessary red tape for small business’.

In a letter received by ACAPMA earlier this week, the Queensland Department of Health advised that “An investigative process has commenced which includes a comprehensive review of available evidence and the development of detailed licensing scheme options for consideration. This approach will explore and clarify key aspects such as the type, scope and purpose of the scheme, fee structures and potential of a licensing scheme to make a positive contribution to further reduce smoking rates”.

In a subsequent discussion with the Department of Health, ACAPMA advised that the proposal represented a significant risk to petrol-convenience retailers – many of whom had suffered a substantial decline in revenues following the recent implementation of plain packaging legislation and tobacco retail laws by the Federal Government.

“ACAPMA believes that commentary on the public health merits of new tobacco laws is a task for other stakeholders but we are concerned about any proposal that increases the costs or complexity of selling tobacco products – or any other convenience products”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

Of most concern, is a suggestion that one of the objectives of the new scheme is to introduce a cap on the number of businesses that can sell tobacco products in the State – possibly by postcode or population density of a given marketing area”, said Mark.

“Apart from the obvious complexity of such a strategy, it is unclear how such an approach would navigate the inherent risk of distorting competition in the retail market,” said Mark.

Tobacco has traditionally been one of the significant sources of revenue for petrol-convenience outlets. Consequently, any new laws seeking to further limit the future ability of petrol-convenience outlets to sell these products needs to be considered very carefully.

The Queensland Department of Health has advised that they are aware of the inherent business issues involved and have decided to extend the original four-month consultation process to the full 12 months of 2017, to ensure sufficient time for consultation with all affected stakeholders.

This is a difficulty debate that involves complex and conflicting stakeholder priorities but we believe that laws in this important area should be harmonised with other Australian State/Territory laws as far as possible, said Mark.

ACAPMA has been invited to participate in the consultative process on this issue and will provide further updates to member businesses as information comes to hand.

ACAPMA’s participation in this consultation, however, will be strictly limited to a desire to minimise the cost and revenue impact on petrol-convenience retailers on Queensland. The Association has neither the knowledge nor the authority to provide comment on the nature of any public health benefit arising from increased tobacco retail laws.

In the meantime, any members wishing to provide input on this issue are encouraged to contact the ACAPMA Secretariat on 1300 160 270 or email communications@acapma.com.au.

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