The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) is calling on the Federal Government to take action to combat the illegal tobacco crime epidemic.

The past few months have shown illegal tobacco is at crisis point in Australia – with the seizure of tonnes of illegal tobacco and millions of illegal cigarettes.

This is representing an annual loss of $1.6 billion dollars in excise tax for Australians, according to figures released by KPMG and reported in the media.

AACS CEO Jeff Rogut, said the Federal Government must act to stop the illegal tobacco racket.

“This is completely out of control, the black market is booming, crime is through the roof, and Australians are losing an extraordinary sum of money,” said Mr Rogut.

“The situation is untenable. We have senior Government figures like Eric Abetz calling for action. We have the Black Economy Taskforce calling for increased regulation. And yet there is no action.

“The combined effect of increasing prices and lack of action means illegal tobacco just became even more valuable to the organised crime syndicates who thrive off the profits they make.”

“It’s not only the economy that’s suffering – but retailers and their staff. Tobacco is now so valuable we are seeing robberies at stores across Australia.

“This has a shocking emotional toll on staff who are the victims of these crimes, and the retailers who count the costs, as they are repeatedly targeted.

The AACS is calling on the Federal Government to take action, to claw back the $1.6 billion dollars in excise lost a year.

“Every day, I speak with retailers across the country who are struggling to survive because the black market is thriving,” said Mr Rogut.

“On top of this, when you consider the extraordinary loss to Australia in the form of excise, the only option is urgent and significant action by the Federal Government against illegal tobacco.”