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Tobacco retail in Australia is a highly regulated industry. Regulation is largely driven by the aim of reducing smoking prevalence in society. Regulations apply at both the federal and state levels and different states and territories have different licensing requirements. Therefore, if you are planning on selling tobacco products in Australia, you should:

  • consider which states or territories will be your target markets;
  • understand where you will need a licence in order to sell your products; and
  • take into consideration other federal requirements for importing your products from overseas and advertising them in Australia. 

An Overview of Licensing Requirements

Each state and territory regulates the sale of tobacco products separately. Broadly speaking, you will need to either:

  • apply for a licence to sell tobacco products; or
  • formally notify your state or territory’s government of your intention to sell tobacco products. 

The below table sets out a summary of the licensing requirements for selling tobacco products across Australia’s states and territories. 

State

Licence Required?

Action Required

New South Wales

No.

Notify NSW Ministry of Health, to be issued with a tobacco retailer notification number. 

Comply with the:

Victoria

No.

Notify the Victorian Department of Health.

Comply with the:

  • Tobacco Act 1987; and
  • Tobacco Regulations 2017.

Queensland

No.

Ensure you are meeting minimum requirements of the: 

Western Australia

Yes: Tobacco Sellers Licence.

Comply with the:

  • Tobacco Products Control Act 2006; and
  • Tobacco Products Control Regulations 2006.

South Australia

Yes: Retail Tobacco and E-Cigarette Merchant’s Licence.

Comply with the:

Northern Territory

Yes: Tobacco Retail Licence.

Comply with the: 

  • Tobacco Control Act 2002 Northern Territory; and
  • Tobacco Control Regulations 2002 Northern Territory.

Australian Capital Territory

Yes: Tobacco Retail Licence.

Comply with the: 

  • Tobacco Act 1927. 

Tasmania

Yes: Smoking Product Licence.

Comply with the:

  • Public Health Act 1997; and
  • Public Health (Smoking Product Licence) Regulations 2019.

Key Legal Requirements for Selling Tobacco

It should be clear by now that you will need to thoroughly review the legislation and regulations within the states and territories where you wish to sell your tobacco products. However, there are several key issues you should keep in mind, no matter where you are in Australia. These are:

Importing Tobacco from Overseas

If you are planning to import your products from overseas to then sell through your own business in Australia, you may need to apply to the Australian Border Force for a permit. Make sure you apply before your products enter Australia to avoid any detention of your products, or in some circumstances, having your products confiscated along with heavy penalties. You will be considered to have imported tobacco products even if you did not order or ask for them to be sent to you. You will also be considered an importer if you purchased, ordered or arranged someone to bring or send to you tobacco products from overseas. 

What Taxes Do I Need to Pay?

Imported products are subject to duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) on arrival in Australia. Ensure you stay up to date with current duty rates, regulated by the Customs Tariff Act 1995

Do I Need a Permit for All Types of Tobacco Products?

Not all tobacco products require a permit for importation. Products that do require a permit include:

  • cigarettes;
  • shisha/molasses tobacco; 
  • loose-leaf tobacco; and
  • ‘heat-not-burn’ tobacco products. 

Products that do not require a permit include:

  • cigars; and
  • chewing tobacco under 1.5kg.

Key Takeaways

Health initiatives to decrease smoking uptake have resulted in the tobacco industry becoming heavily regulated. Whether you will require a licence to sell tobacco products in Australia will depend upon the state or territory in which you would like to sell your products. You must also ensure you are also compliant with federal legislation and regulations concerning packaging, advertising and importing. You may require a permit if you will be importing your tobacco products from overseas first. For help navigating these regulations to make sure you are complying with all requirements necessary for selling tobacco products, contact LegalVision’s regulatory lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a licence to sell tobacco products in New South Wales?

No, you do not need a licence to sell tobacco products in New South Wales. However, you will need to notify the NSW Ministry of Health and comply with the relevant legislation.

Do I need a permit to import tobacco products into Australia?

In most cases, you will need a permit to import tobacco products into Australia. However, you will not need a permit to import cigars or chewing tobacco (under 1.5kg).

Do I need to sell cigarettes in plain packaging in Australia?

Yes, under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 you must sell tobacco products in plain packaging, without logos or branding. Under the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011, you must also include graphic health warnings.

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