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One in five tobacco retailers would prefer not to sell cigarettes

13th March 2019 - Advocacy

Research from Cancer Council NSW and Western Sydney University has revealed that almost 20% of a sample of tobacco retailers (including convenience stores, grocery stores, and newsagents) would prefer not to sell tobacco products.

Cancer Council NSW’s Senior Tobacco Control Project Officer, Christina Watts, said “A further 37% of retailers asked were ambivalent about currently selling cigarettes, suggesting that close to three in five small tobacco retailers in NSW may consider stopping selling tobacco if encouraged to do so. This would reduce the availability of tobacco in our community and inevitably drive smoking rates down.”

“Currently there are still 5500 smoking related deaths in NSW each year, and more than 10,000 tobacco retailers across the state. If retailers are telling us that they would prefer to not sell tobacco, we need legislative changes in NSW to encourage them to stop selling.”

In light of the findings, Cancer Council NSW is calling on the next NSW Government to introduce an annual licence fee to encourage retailers to stop selling and reduce the risk of more people developing the fatal habit. Licence fees have been successfully introduced to discourage retailers from selling cigarettes in a majority of other Australian states and territories. South Australia introduced a $200 annual licence fee in 2007, resulting in almost a quarter of retailers stopping cigarette sales.

“As it stands there is a vast oversupply of tobacco in the community. 74% of retailers in the study said there was another tobacco retail outlet within 1km distance from their store, and a staggering 40% had another store within 100m. Yet there is still no licence scheme in place to regulate who can sell cigarettes, and nothing to discourage retailers from continuing to sell when the products may no longer be important for business.”

Harris Farm Markets Co-CEO, Tristan Harris, whose business made the decision to not sell tobacco products, said “Every retailer has a responsibility to consider the impact of every product that they sell to their customers. And if it’s a product which has got serious health concerns, then that needs to be taken into consideration.”

“Harris Farm has been a successful business despite not selling tobacco products and we’ve grown every year for the last 25 years. If someone still chooses to sell a product like tobacco, I think they absolutely should be required to have a licence and pay a fee.”

– ENDS –

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

Notes to editor

About the study

  • Tobacco Retailing in Western Australia, Victoria and NSW: Who Sells (and Why), Who Stops (and Why) is a study of respondents across Western Australia (WA), Victoria, and New South Wales (NSW), from outlet types that are typical tobacco retailers, and where the power to decide whether to sell tobacco or not is likely to rest with the owner/manager of the outlet. The sample comprised convenience stores (with the exception of the large 7-Eleven chain), grocery stores, newsagents, accommodation outlets, and for WA and Victoria, alcohol-licensed premises such as bars, hotels, and clubs. The sample for NSW included 923 current and former tobacco retailers’.
  • Saving Life 2019

    This topic forms part of Cancer Council NSW’s pre-election campaign: Saving Life 2019:

    • Saving Life 2019 is the Cancer Council NSW pre-election advocacy campaign that calls on the next NSW government to protect the community from tobacco, tackle childhood obesity, and support people with lymphoedema. Key policy proposals:
      • Strengthen the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 to ensure that people working or socialising in a bar or club in NSW will be protected from second-hand smoke.
      • Ban tobacco vending machines and introduce an annual licence fee to encourage retailers to stop selling and reduce the risk of young people developing this fatal habit.
      • Remove junk food advertising from NSW Government owned or leased property, in particular public transport, to ensure parents’ efforts to promote healthy eating are not undermined.
      • Increase funding for public lymphoedema services across NSW to ensure timely access to care, regardless of where people live.