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Licensing Tobacco Sellers

Tobacco sellers, like alcohol sellers, should be licensed – to prevent illegal sale to children, and to cover the costs of regulation including retailer education and compliance monitoring.

In 2002 the Commonwealth commissioned a report into the desirability and best practice arrangements for the licensing of tobacco retailers and wholesalers. The findings, endorsed by the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs, are yet to be fully implemented.

The report, by the Allen Consultancy Group, examined both the benefits and the objections and concluded that there is “a strong case, based on economic and public health rationales, to introduce licensing of tobacco sellers”. The report said:
• Licenses should be held by all tobacco wholesalers and retailers.
• Compliance with general tobacco control laws should be the minimum operational standard required by a licence holder.
• There should be scope for conditions to be applied to licences where this supports compliance with tobacco control laws.
• A licence should be able to be refused or withdrawn if the responsible person has contravened tobacco control laws.
• Licence fees should be set to recover only the costs associated with the
o administration of the licensing scheme;
o enforcement of the licences including inspections; and
o provision of information to applicants and licensees to ensure their continued and future compliance.
• Tobacco sales licensing should be seen as a health issue and controlled by health officials who may contract out elements of the scheme (licensing, inspections, enforcement) to third parties.
• There should be a graduated penalty structure that includes warnings, penalties, prosecutions and scope for licence withdrawal.

Objections to tobacco licensing or registration schemes
The authors concluded that the impediments – industry concerns about the cost of the schemes, some jurisdictional hesitancy and the general regulatory move away from licensing – should be countered on grounds that tobacco licensing schemes are clearly in the public interest.

View the report at$FILE/licensing_tobacco.pdf

They’ve done it
Four Australian jurisdictions – South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT – require tobacco sellers to be licensed.

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