Queensland considering new tobacco licensing laws

The Queensland Government is exploring the merits of introducing a licensing scheme for the sale of tobacco products throughout the state following the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry.

A copy of the Committee’s report can be downloaded here.

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 last week, the Queensland Department of Health advised: “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,” ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie said.

Of most concern, he says, 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 Queensland – possibly by postcode or population density of a given marketing area.

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

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 need to be considered very carefully.

The Queensland Department of Health has advised that it is aware of the inherent business issues involved and has 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 difficult 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,” Mr McKenzie said.

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 in Queensland, Mr McKenzie says, with the association having neither the knowledge nor the authority to provide comment on the nature of any public health benefit arising from increased tobacco retail laws.

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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