Calls for higher tobacco retailer licence fees nationwide

Tuesday, 26 September, 2023

Calls for higher tobacco retailer licence fees nationwide

Research into the impact of tobacco retailer licensing fees on tobacco availability has prompted public health experts to call on all Australian governments to adopt a higher minimum standard of licensing regulation nationally to help drive down smoking rates.

Tobacco licensing was changed significantly in South Australia in January 2007, when the annual cost of retail tobacco licences rose 15-fold from $12.90 to $200. A study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health builds on research showing that the initial fee increase led to an almost 24% decrease in the number of tobacco retailers within two years.

Co-author Professor Caroline Miller, Director of Health Policy at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), said that the latest analysis of what happened in SA between 2009 and 2020 shows large fee increases are needed to prompt retailers to re-evaluate the sale of tobacco.

“In the latest analysis, we found that the number of licences has continued to fall from 2707 in 2009 to 1810 in 2020, a 33% decline over 11 years. However, this is only an incremental change.”

Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, CEO, Public Health Association of Australia, said that it is “ridiculous and bizarre that the product is still widely available in an enormous number of retail outlets”.

“Tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death and disability in Australia, yet continues to be sold in most supermarkets, corner stores, petrol stations, pubs and many other venues. No state or territory has any restriction on the number of outlets that can sell tobacco.

“In some states such as Victoria there is even no need for a licence to sell tobacco. In NSW you only need to let the government know once if you intend to sell cigarettes.

“Tobacco smoking is estimated to cost Australia $137 billion, with those costs spanning healthcare and health system costs, loss of productivity, impact to families caring for someone with a tobacco-caused illness, as well as ill health to individuals. Everyone else is left to pick up the cost and impact of tobacco, while retailers get off dirt cheap.”

The study looks to examine the significance of introducing a higher standard of tobacco licensing through the country, such as higher licensing fees, in an attempt to reduce the availability of tobacco and deter retailers, as well as support smokers aiming to quit.

“Improved licensing and higher fees would also prompt retailers to re-evaluate the economic value of being in the unethical business of selling tobacco,” Slevin said.

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