Cigarettes anytime, anywhere – taking tobacco temptation away

| September 12, 2013

Tobacco is easily available throughout NSW. Kathy Chapman, Health Strategies Director for Cancer Council NSW, argues that instead of only regulating demand, the NSW government should address the issue of supply of cigarettes.

Every morning I pass at least a dozen places where I can buy cigarettes and that’s just my walk into work. Luckily for me, I am not a smoker, but as I pass the shops and retail outlets that sell tobacco and cigarettes, I often wonder how smokers can be given a real chance of quitting when there are so many temptations close to home and work.

At Cancer Council NSW, where I work, a key focus for the past 12 months was to delve into just how available tobacco is across NSW. Our report ‘Selling tobacco anywhere, anytime: Harmful not helpful’ verified what I see each day and that is just how easily available cigarettes are in NSW.  The report found that there are five times as many places to buy cigarettes than pharmacies, where the nicotine replacement therapy that may help smokers quit is available, which also reflects my walk to work where I pass two chemists.

Convenience or route outlets made up 80 per cent of the outlets selling cigarettes. Meaning cigarettes were easily available on almost every suburban corner across the state. These outlets included petrol stations, convenience stores, newsagents and pub vending machines, highlighting that this product is easier to buy than everyday consumables like bread or milk. Every time smokers go about their daily routine filling up their petrol tank, popping into the local corner shop to get milk or catching up with friends after work, the temptation of cigarettes constantly surrounds them. How can smokers make a successful quit attempt with such constant temptation around?

If we are concerned about how available cigarettes are to smokers, we must also consider the message this ready availability sends to children and teens. International research shows schools that are located close to tobacco retailers saw an increase in adolescents smoking. It’s vital that everything is done to put tobacco out of sight and out of mind to protect future generations of children from taking up smoking.

You can’t ignore the facts about smoking – 800,000 people across NSW smoke, and 15,000 Australians will die from smoking related deaths each year – making it one of the biggest preventable causes of premature deaths. Both Federal and NSW governments have made significant legislative changes driven by strong public support and solid evidence based research that shows the benefit in protecting our community from the health effects of tobacco.

In recent times we have seen the introduction of plain tobacco packaging, the banning of tobacco display promotion and legislation to protect the community from second-hand smoke by banning smoking in public places in NSW. But these strategies only address demand; the NSW government has yet to address the issue of supply of cigarettes in NSW. It’s time we add a new strategy to our efforts if we want to see the figure of 800,000 smokers reduced.

A good place to start would be for the NSW Government to set up a tobacco retail taskforce to explore licensing options that would ensure tobacco retailers meet certain criteria to sell tobacco. It should not be a given that you can sell such a harmful product without any safe guards. You currently need a license to sell alcohol in NSW, you need a license to sell medications, and you even need a license to sell second-hand goods but for a harmful product like tobacco, no proper license is required. Licensing could reduce the numbers of new outlets being allowed to sell cigarettes so close to schools; it could put restrictions on the number of licenses issued to an individual post code. These are all measures a taskforce could explore to reduce supply.

I hope that soon my walk to work will see less places offering temptation to the smokers who deserve the best chance and support to help butt out their habit for good.



  1. ccollin6

    September 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Protecting smokers From Temptation
    That is a noble and worthwhile endeavor. Much could and should be done to protect people from their weaknesses associated with bad habits. Still so much profit is accrued through commercialization of tobacco it hardly likely that resistance will not mounted. Then too hopefully the smoker and tobacco user will get just sick and tired of a habit that undermines the very thing that cherish-that is life itself with a good measure of health.If life really is a gift from God? Then surely it is worth preserving.