Media Room

Introduction of tobacco retailer licence fee likely to reduce some of the 10,000 retailers selling in NSW

16th September 2019 - Cancer prevention

New research from Cancer Council, Western Sydney University and The University of Sydney has revealed that many of the 10,000 tobacco retailers in NSW are likely to continue to sell cigarettes unless action is taken to reduce tobacco availability.

The study assessed a sample of 390 former tobacco retailers’ reasons for stopping selling tobacco in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia and found that the requirement to pay an annual licence fee in WA resulted in some retailers deciding to stop selling. However unlike in WA, ACT, Tasmania, Northern Territory and South Australia, as it stands, there is no requirement for a tobacco retailer to pay an annual licence fee in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, and without this annual prompt to reassess the reason to sell tobacco, retailers are likely to continue selling.

“Tobacco is among the most widely available consumer goods in Australia, and this wide distribution increases consumption, maintains smoking and undermines smokers’ quit attempts. This research shows that a fee-based tobacco licence can contribute to a reduction in the availability of tobacco” said Cancer Council NSW’s Tobacco Control Senior Project Officer, and lead author of the research, Christina Watts.

In light of the findings, Cancer Council NSW is calling on the NSW government to introduce an annual licence fee to sell tobacco. Licence fees have been successfully introduced to discourage retailers from selling cigarettes in other states and territories.

“Licensing of tobacco retailers, with an annual licence fee, has been repeatedly recommended as a critically-needed policy in NSW. Licensing can be used to restrict the number of retailers within areas, limit the types of outlets that can sell tobacco and/or deter retailers from selling or continuing to sell” Ms Watts said.

“To date, a strategy to reduce the widespread availability of tobacco has not been comprehensively explored, despite the NSW Government pledging to restrict the availability and supply of tobacco in their 2012-2022 tobacco strategy” Ms Watts continued.

Support among tobacco retailers for the introduction of an annual licence fee to sell tobacco has been positive. A telephone survey of a large sample of tobacco retailers found that 45% of NSW tobacco retailers support the introduction of a licence fee if revenue from the licence fees went into greater enforcement and education of laws.

“Smoking still places a huge burden on the community and on people’s lives. If the NSW Government are to achieve the goal of restricting the availability and supply of tobacco, as outlined in their tobacco strategy, the introduction of an annual licence fee for retailers is a common-sense next step” Ms Watts concluded.

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Media contact: Eden Patrick, Cancer Council NSW, T: (02) 9334 1903; M: 0421 517 245;

Notes to editor

About the study

  • Widespread availability of tobacco has been shown to contribute to ongoing smoking and make quitting harder. This study investigates why some retailers in three Australian states decided to stop selling tobacco, others might stop selling, and why others continue to sell in a declining market.
  • A telephone survey of 4,527 randomly selected retailers was conducted in August 2018 (response rate=72.4%). This study examines responses to open-ended questions in the survey probing retailers’ attitudes and beliefs regarding selling (or not selling) tobacco.
  • 27.3% of the sample sold tobacco, and 13.3% had formerly sold. Outlets that had stopped selling most frequently mentioned minimal profit and/or sales as the reason for stopping selling (27.7% across all states). Uniquely in Western Australia (the only state in the study with a fee-based licensing scheme), 12.5% of former tobacco retailers named tobacco licensing as the reason for stopping sales – the second most frequent reason in Western Australia.
  • The study suggests that continued legislative changes, such as a fee-based licensing scheme, may encourage some tobacco retailers to stop selling.
Cancer prevention