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The way in which tobacco products are displayed in retail stores influences smoking rates and promotes smoking as a normal everyday behaviour.

Retailer obligations

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control articles ‘Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship’ (Art 13) and ‘Sales to and by minors’ (Art 16) are relevant to Australia’s obligations to regulate the retail sale of tobacco products.  

The way in which tobacco products are displayed in retail stores influences smoking rates and promotes smoking as a normal everyday behaviour. The key reasons behind the introduction of point-of-sale display bans in Victoria included that displays raise the visibility of tobacco products and create an impression that cigarettes are far more popular than they really are. This in turn:

  • increases the likelihood that young people will start smoking
  • encourages smokers to buy more tobacco products
  • makes it harder for quitters to stay quit.

The point-of-sale display bans were introduced on 1 January 2011 to:

  • remove the visual cues of tobacco to smokers at points-of-sale
  • reduce the number of young people starting smoking and encourage and support smokers to stop smoking or to smoke less
  • continue to send the message that tobacco is a not a normal, everyday, harmless product.

For further information, see Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues, Chapter 11.9 on Tobacco display as advertising.

Current regulation in Victoria

Rules for retailers selling tobacco in Victoria are set out in the Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic) and accompanying regulations. The Department of Health has issued a Tobacco Retailer Guide which summarises the rules. Areas covered include:

  • point-of-sale display bans and rules for price boards
  • the ban on selling tobacco to people under the age of 18
  • signage requirements
  • the ban on selling cigarettes in packets of less than 20
  • bans on selling from temporary mobile structures, outlets set up for specific purposes (such as the Grand Prix or Big Day Out) and the mobile selling of tobacco (products carried on the person)
  • vending machine location and display requirements
  • bans on including tobacco in shopper loyalty schemes and providing discounts or other benefits with the purchase of tobacco/ designed to promote the sale of tobacco
  • bans on selling tobacco products or products resembling tobacco products that have been specifically banned by the Minister (via notices in the Victorian Government Gazette) – for example cigarettes that are fruity, sweet or confectionary flavoured.

For further information on the obligations of retailers generally, see the Victorian Government website Retailers including premises with vending machines.

Retailers selling electronic cigarettes

On 13 October 2016, the Victorian Parliament passed the Tobacco Amendment Act 2016. The Act contains a number of amendments to the Tobacco Act 1987. These amendments extend the existing rules for retailers relating to tobacco products, so that those rules will also apply to retailers selling electronic cigarettes.

The new laws apply from 1 August 2017.

For further information about the Victorian laws regulating the retail sale of electronic cigarettes, see the Victorian Department of Health website on Tobacco Reforms.

Specialist tobacconists & airport duty-free stores

To become a certified specialist tobacconist a business must apply to the Department of Health (Victoria) and satisfy certain criteria. These are listed in the Department of Health’s Certified specialist tobacconist fact sheet.

In Victoria certified specialist tobacconists and airport duty-free stores are currently exempt from the point-of-sale display bans.

From 1 April 2014, a business will not be able to apply to be certified as a specialist tobacconist. These changes will limit the number of businesses that can display tobacco products.

For more information on specialist tobacconist, see the Victorian Government website Tobacco reforms: specialist tobacconists.

Making complaints

If you believe that a retailer or other individual is breaching any of the obligations set out above, contact the Tobacco Control Section at the Victorian Department of Health.

Quit Victoria’s position statement

Quit Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation (Victoria) believe that further restrictions are required in Victoria to remove the last forms of tobacco advertising in retail environments. This includes:

  • banning price boards from retailer outlets (in line with the ACT and Queensland)
  • banning all signage at all retail outlets with the exception of the A4 sign 'We don’t sell tobacco to U/18s'
  • ending all exemptions for point-of-sale display bands for specialist tobacconists
  • introducing a complete ban on the sale of tobacco products via vending machines.

Read the position statement Further tobacco retail reform: removing the last forms of advertising (price boards, signage, specialist tobacconist, & vending machines).

Suggested Resources

Availability of tobacco

In Australia, the law places few limits on who may sell tobacco, where and when they may sell, or the number of outlets selling tobacco.

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Advertising & promotion

Since the 1980s Australia has been a pioneer in the control of tobacco advertising and promotion and today almost all forms of tobacco advertising are prohibited.

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