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‘Black market is booming’: The unintended consequence of tough new tax laws on cigarettes

There are fears the illicit tobacco trade is booming, with organised crime groups smuggling in thousands of cigarettes into Australia each day.

3AW Mornings investigated the sale of “chop-chop” or unbranded tobacco, with many callers reporting it was incredibly easy to source.

Neil Mitchell believes cigarette-related crimes may have increased.

There has also been a spike in raids at cigarette shops across Melbourne.

Just last week, a Roxburgh Park cigarette shop was broken into, with as many as $120,000 worth of cash and cigarettes stolen.

Neil Mitchell said he believes a packet of cigarettes will cost $45 or more by September, which may be in factor in a rise in cigarette-related crime.

Neil Mitchell: I think there has been an unintended consequence of our tough new tax law on cigarettes.

I think it is costing us a lot of money.

The black market is booming.

Crime is booming around cigarettes.

It has become the hot crime.

I don’t argue in support of smoking – it’s stupid.

But – I want to know how much cigarette crime has increased and what it is costing us

Rohan Pike, who spent 25 years with the AFP and Border Force and created the Border Force’s Tobacco Strike Team, said he wasn’t surprised that smuggled cigarettes were so easy to come by.

“There were 300,000 seizures of illicit tobacco last year by the Border Force,” he said.

He said there are on average 1000 seizures a day.

With the increase in tobacco prices across the world, Mr Pike said many countries increased their enforcement responses to counter the rise in cigarette related crime.

“Australia hasn’t and now we are playing catch up,” he said.

He urged the government to take action.

“We have to decide whether we want to continue high prices on tobacco, with the knowledge that is going to cause a crime problem.

“If we do want the excise they are going to have to increase their response.

“If the government wants to continue these high excise rates, they are going to have to deal with the crime problem.”

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Neil Mitchell