A tobacco licensing levy as proposed by the AMA Victorian branch president Dr Harry Hemley would cripple small business owners The Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) and COSBOA has claimed.
AACS executive director Sheryle Moon said the AACS agreed with the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA), which is urging the anti tobacco lobby group to “cut the emotion” associated with tobacco sales.
“We all agree that we need to cut down the level of smoking in this country. AACS supports responsible public health policy that delivers the required outcome and doesn’t expect Australian small businesses to bear the brunt of the economic burden,” Ms Moon said.
“Dr Hemley’s belief that the fee would act as a barrier to the sale of tobacco by forcing smaller operators, such as convenience stores and service stations, to remove themselves from the market is invalid. It is also extremely short-sighted, irresponsible and completely ignores the bigger issue of smokers going elsewhere to buy their cigarettes.
“Supermarkets sell the majority of cigarettes. With a bigger slice of the action they are able to sell in bulk at discounted prices and even offer petrol discount coupons to make purchasing tobacco through these outlets more attractive to the consumer. Surely this only encourages the take up and continuation of the habit.
“AACS continues to be concerned that policies which slug hard working shop owners will further contribute to shift demand from the legal regulated market to the illicit market, which as at 2009 made up 12 per cent of the total tobacco market in Australia.
“The Association, however, does applaud the Government for its investment in education campaigns, such as Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s anti-smoking campaign specifically targeting teenage girls launched on Sunday.
“We urge the Government to reject the AMA recommendations. The proposed levy irreparably impacts on the viability of small business operations and promotes the sale of tobacco on the black market but does absolutely nothing to address the most important issue of protecting consumers from the harmful effects of tobacco smoking,” Ms Moon said.