Illegal tobacco crackdown in tough Qld smoking reforms
Sale of illegal tobacco will become harder under new Queensland laws.
Parliamentarians debated the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Amendment Bill 2023 and passed the legislation aimed at strengthening anti-smoking and illicit tobacco laws and their enforcement.
A licensing scheme for the sale of tobacco, the expansion of smoke-free areas and tougher restrictions on cigarettes in licensed venues were all legislative reforms put through in the crackdown.
The laws are aimed at keeping illegal tobacco off the streets and ensure only "fit and proper" people are licensed to sell and store legal products.
Maximum penalties for supplying illicit tobacco sit at $43,125 and storing illicit tobacco $20,125.
The government believes the legislative reforms send a clear message to illegal suppliers that trading in illicit tobacco is no longer low risk with high reward.
Licences for the sale of smoking goods must be renewed every year with a public register of licences. Businesses will have until September 24 to obtain a licence.
Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said the licensing scheme will provide Queensland Health with improved oversight of the industry, and allow authorities to engage more effectively with sellers and design targeted enforcement activities.
She said the reforms have been welcomed by stakeholders across Queensland.
"As a way of ensuring only legitimate businesses are authorised to sell smoking products," she told parliament.
Queensland parliament's health and environment committee heard concerns from tobacconists and licensed vendors around the state at public hearings in April.
Steven Donohue, director of Townsville's public health unit, said ongoing legal disparities heavily impeded attempts by health authorities to stem illegal supply.
While welcoming the reforms, he believed the changes were "too little, too late" as the burden of new smokers impact heavily on health services.
But the government is confident health authorities will be faster in targeting and prosecuting illegal operators under one lead agency.
The Queensland Police Service will also support health officers, assuming the role of investigating and seizing illegal tobacco products.
Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke also welcomed the passage of the laws.
"These reforms are integral in continuing the decades of hard work by the Queensland government to reduce tobacco and e-cigarette use and protect the health of young people and non-smokers," he said.
"Queensland has long been a leader in tobacco control, and we are heartened to see these strong efforts continue."
A parliamentary inquiry into the use of vapes and e-cigarettes has been slated by the government with the committee's report into reducing rates of e-cigarette use in Queensland due on August 31.