A NEW audit on the availability of tobacco has prompted Cancer Council NSW to call for a licence to sell cigarettes, but local businesses believe the plan could favour bigger supermarkets and licensed venues.
The Cancer Council audit of more than 1700 retailers revealed pharmacies were outnumbered five to one, compared to places selling cigarettes, and Australia Post outlets were outnumbered eight to one.
NSW retailers do not need a licence to sell tobacco, but are instead required to notify the NSW Ministry of Health through the retailer notification scheme.
Rex Motors service station owner Dave Locklee said the licence would just be yet another cost for smaller retailers.
While he doesn’t agree with the idea, he said he would still be willing to get a licence.
Mr Locklee described a potential licence as “another nail in the coffin of convenience stores”.
“Licences would benefit the bigger retailers to the detriment of the smaller shops,” Mr Locklee said.
“We sell fewer cigarettes, so it’d be a larger impost on us smaller businesses.”
On average, there are 17 places selling cigarettes in each postcode in NSW, and one in four outlets are breaking retail laws, according to the audit.
Cancer Council northern region community programs co-ordinator Shaen Fraser said there was no reliable monitoring system for the sale of cigarettes, despite tobacco contributing to the deaths of more than 15,000 Australians each year.
Mrs Fraser said selling cigarettes on street corners, including near schools, tempted children and adolescents to experiment with smoking.
Eighty per cent of outlets selling cigarettes are convenience, route and impulse retailers, including petrol stations, supermarkets and convenience stores.
“It’s ridiculous that you need a licence to go fishing, yet pretty much anybody can sell a harmful and addictive product like cigarettes freely without any monitoring of how, when or where they are sold,” Mrs Fraser said.
Mr Locklee said he didn’t think the tobacco licence plan would change rates of underage smoking.
He said, while there was peer pressure to smoke, children found it hard to purchase cigarettes.
“The price of cigarettes is continually going up so they’re beyond the reach of most kids anyway,” Mr Locklee said.
“It’s a $12,000 fine if we don’t ask their age or if we sell cigarettes to underage people.
“It’s worth following the rules and we do it to the letter.”