Identifying tobacco retailers in the absence of a licensing system: lessons from Australia

Tob Control. 2022 Jul;31(4):543-548. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-055977. Epub 2021 Feb 1.


Objectives: To estimate the proportion of retailers that sell tobacco in the absence of appropriate local government oversight, and to describe the characteristics by which they differ from those that can expect to receive such oversight.

Methods: A database of listed tobacco retailers was obtained from a regional Victorian local government. Potential unlisted tobacco retailers were added using online searches, and attempts to visit all retailers were undertaken. GPS coordinates and sales type information of retailers that sold tobacco were recorded and attached to neighbourhood-level data on socioeconomic disadvantage and smoking prevalence using ArcMap. Logistic regression analyses, χ2 tests and t-tests were undertaken to explore differences in numbers of listed and unlisted retailers by business and neighbourhood-level characteristics.

Results: Of 125 confirmed tobacco retailers, 43.2% were trading potentially without government oversight. Significant differences were found between listed and unlisted retailers by primary business type (p<0.001), and sales type (p<0.001) but not by the other characteristics.

Conclusions: The database of tobacco retailers was inaccurate in two ways: (1) a number of listed retailers no longer operated or sold tobacco, and (2) 43.2% of businesses confirmed as selling tobacco were missing. As no form of licensing system exists in Victoria, it is difficult to identify the number of retailers operating, or to determine how many receive formal regulatory oversight. A positive licensing system is recommended to regulate the sale of tobacco and to generate a comprehensive database of retailers, similar to that which exists for food registration, gaming and liquor-licensed premises.

Keywords: advocacy; environment; public policy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Commerce
  • Humans
  • Nicotiana*
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Tobacco Use
  • Victoria / epidemiology