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Concern raised about illegal tobacco trade

Friday 30 June, 2000

Quit has raised concerns about burgeoning trade in illegal untaxed tobacco, saying the proliferation of the cheaper product - known as chop chop - is hindering efforts to reduce smoking rates.

Executive Director Todd Harper says moves announced recently by the Australian Tax Office and the Assistant Treasurer to curb the growth of the 'chop chop' market are welcome, but they will only be effective if accompanied by increased funding for anti-smoking campaigns.

Mr Harper says it's been estimated that the illegal sale of untaxed tobacco is costing the Government about $300 million in lost taxes.

He says in 1997, the combined State and Federal revenue from tobacco taxation was almost $4.5 billion, with just $14 million being spent on anti-smoking campaigns.

'For every $100 of tobacco taxes that governments receive, less than 50 cents is spent on anti-smoking campaigns.'

'Estimates on the size of the chop chop market in Australia range from $250 million to $500 million a year.

'Initiatives announced recently by Assistant Treasurer Rod Kemp including increased penalties for those caught selling chop chop, and more inspectors with greater powers, are encouraging.

'But it's disappointing that the government's main concern is on the revenue that's being lost, rather than the number of people whose health is being affected.'

'Smoking is Australia's number one public health issue, killing 50 Australians a day.'

'Chop chop carries no health warnings, and there is absolutely no means of regulating its production. We don't know what's in chop chop - like manufactured cigarettes - and we don't know what sort of health effects it could have.'

He said the scrapping of State licensing restrictions in 1997 had allowed the illicit tobacco market to flourish in Australia.

'Effective controls over tobacco retailers - including licensing - must be an integral part of anti-smoking campaigns in Australia.'

'Increasing funding to anti smoking campaigns would enable this issue to be tackled as a health issue, as well as a taxation issue.'

ends

Further information:

Zoe Furman
Media Communications Manager
Quit Victoria

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