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  • ATO takes the shine out of Sunshine Coast illicit tobacco trade

    Officers from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Queensland Police Service, and Queensland Department of Health have this week executed search warrants against businesses suspected of supplying illicit tobacco on the Sunshine Coast.

    The ATO seized over 270,000 illicit cigarettes and 33 kilograms of loose leaf tobacco from 3 retail tobacconists in Maroochydore, Dicky Beach and Currimundi and a storage facility in Maroochydore.

    Queensland Department of Health officers also seized over 9,000 illegal vape products.

    Three individuals were arrested and charged by Queensland Police. A 54-year-old Caboolture man and a 36-year-old Caboolture woman were charged with two counts of possession of tobacco 5kgs or above, four counts of selling or supplying tobacco products in non-compliant retail packaging and two counts of receiving tainted property. A 49-year-old Manly West woman was charged with one count each of selling or supplying tobacco products in non-compliant retail packaging and receiving tainted property.

    Acting Deputy Commissioner Jade Hawkins welcomed the seizures, condemning those who take part in the illicit tobacco trade.

    “Retailers choosing to become involved in the sale of illegal tobacco gain an unfair price advantage over honest businesses who are doing the right thing,” Ms Hawkins said.

    “This was a co-ordinated illegal enterprise, and the ATO is committed to disrupting those who produce and supply illicit tobacco for sale in the shadow economy in Australia.”

    “Although most people do the right thing, some people and businesses deliberately avoid meeting their obligations. What’s more, participating in the shadow economy reduces the funds available for essential community services, such as health and education. The shadow economy is estimated to cost the economy about $8 billion a year.”

    A spokesperson from the Queensland Department of Health commented that, “under the Medicines and Poisons Act 2019 (Qld), nicotine vaping products are illegal unless supplied by a pharmacist on prescription or obtained through an approved Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) process. If you think a retailer (other than a pharmacy) is selling vapes that contain nicotine, or selling vapes to anyone under 18 years of age, please report it to your Public Health Unit or call 13QGov (13 74 68).”

    “Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can alter the structure and function of the brain. People who have never smoked tobacco and use vapes are also 3 times as likely to take up regular smoking than non-smokers who don’t vape.”

    Storage facilities, otherwise known as distribution hubs, are locations where people involved in illicit tobacco activities store illicit tobacco products, a crucial element of their illicit tobacco supply chain.

    Retailers who choose to become involved in the illicit tobacco trade can face serious penalties, such as a civil penalty of up to $22,200, or a criminal conviction with a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

    If you suspect that illicit tobacco is being grown or sold in your community you can confidentially report it to the ATO online at, or phone 1800 060 062.

    Visit to find out more information about what illicit tobacco is and how we are fighting back.

    Tobacco arrest

    Last modified: 08 Dec 2022QC 71060