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Big hikes in tobacco seller’s licence fee and fines for selling to underage smokers

PLANS to increase tobacco lic­ence fees in Tasmania will disadvantage small retailers and could lead to a growth in black market sales, a business community advocate has warned.

Operators caught selling cigarettes to children will face the equal highest penalties in the nation and shopkeepers will have the cost of licence fees tripled under a State Government plan.

But Tasmania’s Small Business Council has warned the measures could drive tobacco sales underground.

Under the proposal, an increase in licence fees for retail workers will help to pay for a anti-smoking awareness campaign. The fee increase will be phased in over a two-year period, rising to $731.34 on January 1 next year and to about $1090 from January 1, 2018.

Anybody selling tobacco products must have a tobacco seller’s licence or be an employee of someone who holds a tobacco seller’s licence.

Business council executive director Robert Mallett supports an increase in the licence fee but says the Government has gone too far.

“To triple the fee is ridiculous and will kill a significant number of businesses,” he said.

“Government is addicted to tobacco taxes and sales. But, if the Government are going to be half-way serious, they need to fund the education campaigns out of the millions of dollars in taxes people pay on tobacco products.”

Mr Mallett said the fees would not hit major players such as a grocery giants Coles and Woolies but would have a significant impact on small businesses. “The chop-chop and black market will grow,” he said.

Mr Mallett also warned of an increase in thefts of tobacco.

Tasmania Health Minister Michael Ferguson said a $6.4 million preventive health plan would focus more Quit advertising and at pregnant women who smoked, and match the highest penalties in the nation for those supplying tobacco products to children — presently $18,120.

“As part of our bold plan, we will invest $1.8 million over four years to increase smoking control, education and targeted interventions,” he said.

“The government has set a bold target to reduce the number of Tasmanians smoking to 10 per cent by 2020, and down to 5 per cent by 2025.”

Mr Ferguson announced last week the Government would not pursue a proposal to increase the smoking age to 21 or 25.

Mr Ferguson said the largest investment the government will make is to provide $3.5 million “to support and incentivise communities and individuals to make positive health changes in their life through better nutrition and more physical activity”.

“A key focus of this will be children and students, with schools set to be supported through the Student Health Initiative,” he said.

“Through this, $2 million will be spent over four years on ensuring our youngest citizens learn healthy habits which will put them on a trajectory for a longer, healthier life.

“This initiative will help us achieve generational change.”

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