New tobacco licensing scheme in Victoria to tackle firebombings

New tobacco licensing scheme in Victoria to tackle firebombings

Victoria is set to introduce a scheme that will require retailers to obtain a license to sell cigarettes, in a bid to stop the illegal tobacco trade.

Premier Jacinta Allan said the new regulations would be brought before parliament in the second half of the year.

“We’ve accepted her central recommendation that we should introduce a licensing scheme,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne this morning.

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The premier said stores would have to meet strict conditions and said there wouldn’t be a cap on the number of licences.

“(Victoria Police has) got a dedicated taskforce… and they are making arrests. They are acting on this sort of illegal behaviour and the introduction of a licensing scheme will help reinforce that work,” Allan said.

Victoria is currently the only state without a tobacco retail licensing scheme.

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Tobacco store attacks continue

The illicit tobacco industry has been steadily growing but turned violent in the past year as the turf war between a notorious crime family and Middle Eastern crime groups escalates.

Police established Taskforce Lunar in October last year to stamp out firebombing and arson attacks on tobacco business.

They have more than 30 ongoing arson investigations, which include tobacco stores, vehicles, gyms, restaurants and private addresses across Melbourne.

Since October, the taskforce has executed almost 70 warrants at tobacco stores across the state believed to be involved in the sale of illicit tobacco.

They have seized 108,722 vapes worth $3.2 million, more than three million cigarettes worth $3.9 million and more than a tonne of tobacco worth $1.9 million.

A Victoria Police spokesperson told 9News that the scheme was a matter for the government but welcomed any proposed new licensing scheme.

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Cancer Council Victoria chief executive Todd Harpe said the scheme would better protect Victorians.

“The introduction of licensing schemes in other states in Australia and elsewhere around the world is indicative of their success,” he said.

“Licensing schemes enable government to enact and enforce laws that prevent retailers from promoting products in the community, particularly in ways which make it more difficult for people to quit.

“We want people to ideally not start smoking, and we want those who smoke to be supported to quit. So this scheme is another step forward which will ultimately save lives.”

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