Tobacconist stopped from masking anti-smoking messages

Published: 
30 Apr 2009

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action has stopped Darwin tobacconist Mr Colin Thompson from covering health warnings, images and Quitline information on cigarette packets with stickers.

From 9 February to 13 March 2009, Mr Thompson had placed stickers on the outer wrapper of around 3,600 tobacco products— hiding all or most of the mandatory images and health warnings.

Instead of showing graphic warnings against smoking, the packets Mr Thompson sold were covered with stickers promoting his own services.

ACCC Deputy Chairman, Mr Peter Kell said: "Every year thousands of Australians suffer heart attacks, strokes and cancer of the lungs, brain, stomach, kidney, mouth and throat because of the toxins in cigarettes—and unfortunately many die from these illnesses.

"That is why, under product safety laws, retail tobacco products must carry specific information warning consumers of serious illnesses related to smoking.

"To comply with the law, to discourage non-smokers from taking up smoking and to encourage smokers to give up and stay off the cigarettes, these warnings must be visible."

Under a court-enforceable undertaking to the ACCC Mr Thompson must:

  • stop supplying retail tobacco products where the mandatory product information is in any way obscured
  • comply with any consumer product information standards relating to retail tobacco products
  • prominently display in his shop for three months graphic posters of the three mandatory health warnings he had covered on packets he had sold.

If Mr Thompson fails to take these actions, the ACCC can enforce them in the Federal Court.

"Mandatory labelling of tobacco products is just one of a number of consumer product information standards required under the Trade Practices Act," Mr Kell said.

"To minimise risks of injury and illness and avoid penalties, retailers and manufacturers of consumer products should ensure all products they supply comply with required standards.

"The ACCC regularly conducts surveys of retail outlets. This is a good example of the action it can take where goods which lack required safety information are offered for sale."

A copy of the undertakings agreed to by Mr Thompson and further information regarding consumer product information and safety standards are available on the ACCC website.

Contact details

Media inquiries

Ms Lin Enright, Media, (02) 6243 1108 or 0414 613 520

Release # NR 096/09

General inquiries

Infocentre 1300 302 502

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission