New laws to clampdown on sale of illegal tobacco introduced by SA-BEST

2 November 2022

People caught selling illegal tobacco without appropriate health warnings will face tougher financial penalties under new laws introduced today by SA-BEST. 

SA-BEST MLC and Attorney General spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, today introduced a Private Member’s designed to address the explosion of the illicit tobacco market in South Australia. 

Under her proposal, the current expiation fee for such an offence will increase from $500 to $1250, while the maximum penalty for the packing, sale and supply of tobacco products which are not marked with labelling and health warning requirements will increase fivefold from $10,000 to $50,000. 

The proposed new laws are modelled on health provisions contained in legislation in New South Wales and Western Australia. 

“It’s time to get tough on those who blatantly and openly sell illicit tobacco because the current deterrents aren’t working,” Connie said.

“The illegal trade of tobacco is robbing the Federal Government of billions of dollars a year in lost excise duty – money that goes towards our public health system, building roads and keeping our borders safe,” she said. 

“More importantly, there are significant health ramifications involving the consumption of illegal tobacco which is likely to have been manufactured overseas in questionable environments at a low cost.” 

Connie said while legal tobacco consumption in Australia is decreasing, illicit tobacco consumption is booming. 

A report released earlier this year revealed Australians consumed 2242 tonnes of illicit tobacco in 2021 - representing an estimated excise value of $3.4 billion not going into government coffers. 

About 20 per cent of the total consumption of tobacco was illicit tobacco, while unbranded tobacco - known more commonly as chop chop - made up 68.6% of consumption. 

About 30 per cent of the illegal tobacco was contraband - legitimately manufactured by the owner of the trademark but smuggled into Australia to avoid excise duty while 2.5% was illegally manufactured. 

“It’s easy to understand why demand for these cheaper, inferior products is high when legal cigarettes can cost you about $50 a packet today,” Connie said. 

“The statistics also indicate the current low penalties for the packing, sale and supply of illegal tobacco products are completely inadequate and of little deterrence,” she said. 

“Given the opportunity for substantial profits coupled with low risk, it is little wonder how freely available illicit tobacco is in South Australia. 

“The tough new penalties I am proposing are designed to have a direct and immediate impact on retailers who sell illicit tobacco.”

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