Australian health authorities have warned they will not sell cigarettes in Australia until they can ensure they can comply with the country’s new tobacco legislation.
The Department of Health has said it will introduce legislation to allow for sale of cigarettes in a state of “continuity” to ensure the supply chain is “in accordance with the Australian government’s own regulatory guidance”.
The decision came as the government prepares to announce the next steps for the rollout of its new tobacco control law, which will make it illegal to smoke in public places.
The Australian Medical Association has warned that “the tobacco control measures in the Commonwealth are already in place, but they have not been implemented properly”.
Under the legislation, Australians will be able to buy cigarettes in private shops, in bars and at sporting events.
The government is also introducing a ban on smoking at the workplace.
Health Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday the measures would allow Australia to ensure it met the Commonwealth’s commitment to ban smoking in all public places by 2020.
“The government is determined to ensure that tobacco is not allowed in public spaces, but we have also made it clear that it is a priority that we continue to deliver on our commitment to achieve the Commonwealth tobacco control strategy,” Mr Morrison said.
Australia’s chief health officer Dr James Farrar said the country was “very keen” to see the measures in place by the end of the year.
He said the legislation had been in the planning stages for about a year and that the health authorities were now “waiting for the final approvals” from the Commonwealth to put the legislation into effect.
“That’s a lot of waiting, and I think it’s a good example of how the process works and how you can wait,” Dr Farram said.
“We’ve been very open to feedback and feedback from the community.”
“We are working with the Commonwealth and the tobacco industry to make sure that we get the tobacco control regime in place as quickly as possible.”
The tobacco control legislation will take effect in the state of Victoria from July 1.
A spokesperson for the Department of Public Health and Primary Industries said the new measures were already in effect and that tobacco control was the “top priority”.
“We expect that compliance will continue to be robust and consistent with our existing tobacco control plan,” the spokesperson said.