Human cost of trauma in robberies targeting cigarettes

The high price of tobacco makes it the most sought-after item armed thieves steal from convenience stores and petrol stations.
The high price of tobacco makes it the most sought-after item armed thieves steal from convenience stores and petrol stations.

THE high price of tobacco is driving violent crime at convenience stores and petrol stations as armed thieves target cigarettes in raids, the federal government has been warned.

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has launched a stinging criticism of the Australian Government, which it says is ignoring the human cost of staff trauma caused by violent robberies targeting cigarettes.

In 2016, the Australian Government introduced annual increases in tobacco excise of 12.5 per cent until 2020, raising the cost of a pack of cigarettes to $40.

But the AACS says retailers selling tobacco products are bearing the brunt of steep price hikes and called for an immediate moratorium on excise increases on tobacco.

And chief executive Jeff Rogut said the high price of tobacco made it the most sought-after item armed thieves steal from convenience stores and petrol stations.

Armed thieves often steal from convenience stores and petrol stations. Picture: iStock

“The impact this has on people who work in our stores is extremely distressing and the effects last long after the crime has taken place,” he said.

“The Government must face up to its responsibility on this issue because at the moment, no-one is taking responsibility at all leaving convenience store owners and workers to pick up the financial, emotional and even physical pieces.”

Mr Rogut added the steep price rise had allowed the black market to flourish.

“Customers know that illegal, cheaper, non-compliant and sometimes branded tobacco products are everywhere,” he said.

“Every time the Government raises the excise on legal tobacco, the illicit market becomes even more appealing to consumers.

“The health risks of this are enormous, as the illicit market is comprised of non-compliant products of unknown materials sold to anyone including minors.”

Mr Rogut called on authorities to regulate the legal sale of e-cigarettes as a safer option to traditional tobacco and to provide people looking to quit more alternatives to help.

“It’s completely obvious to anyone walking down the street,” he said.

“E-cigarettes are being used by more and more people, young and old, who are getting these products through online orders from other countries, or through the growing black market.

“The longer our government sits on its hands, the more we’ll slip behind progressive nations like New Zealand, and the more Australians will be denied a safer alternative that could improve their health.”

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