Tobacco Plain Packaging

Image showing Tobacco plain packaging frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What are my responsibilities as a retailer or other supplier of tobacco products?
Q. Can’t I just rely on my manufacturer to provide me with compliant products?
Q. How can I be sure that the tobacco products I buy and sell comply with the requirements?
Q. How can I plan for the change to plain packaging and new health warnings?
Q. Can the timelines be extended to give me more time to prepare for plain packaging and the new health warning requirements?
Q. It is not December yet, so why am I already receiving tobacco products that are labelled with the new health warnings from my manufacturer or supplier?
Q. The tobacco products that I sell are manufactured overseas, and my manufacturer or supplier has refused to manufacture or supply them in plain packaging and/or with the new health warnings. What can I do?
Q. I will be importing tobacco products for my store from overseas in branded packaging. Can I use drab dark brown adhesive stickers to make the packaging compliant with plain packaging?
Q. How will I be able to identify different brands under plain packaging?
Q.Why is the brand name not located at the top of the front of the packs?
Q. Will plain packaging increase handling time for retailers?
Q. Am I still required to comply with point-of-sale display bans in my store?
Q. What do I do if customers ask about tobacco plain packaging or the new health warnings?
Q. Where can I get more information about tobacco plain packaging and the new health warnings?
Q. English is not my preferred language – can I get translations of this information?

Obligations of retailers and suppliers

Q. What are my responsibilities as a retailer or other supplier of tobacco products?
A. From 1 December 2012, it is your responsibility to ensure that all of the tobacco products that you buy, sell, offer for sale or otherwise supply in Australia meet the tobacco plain packaging and new health warning requirements.

If you buy, sell, offer for sale or otherwise supply tobacco products in Australia from 1 December 2012 that do not comply with the plain packaging or new health warning requirements, significant criminal or civil penalties may apply. Further details of the penalties are contained in the legislation – see the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 and the Australian Consumer Law at Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Q. Can’t I just rely on my manufacturer to provide me with compliant products?
A. No. You should not rely on your manufacturer or supplier to provide you with tobacco products that comply with the new laws. It is essential that you fully understand all of the tobacco plain packaging and new health warning requirements so that you can meet your obligations under the laws.

Q. How can I be sure that the tobacco products I buy and sell comply with the requirements?
A. The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 and the Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations 2011 contain all of the tobacco plain packaging requirements. The Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011 contains all of the new health warning requirements.

You should seek your own independent advice if you are unsure of your obligations under the plain packaging or new health warning legislation, or are having difficulty understanding the requirements.
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Planning For The Changes

Q. How can I plan for the change to plain packaging and new health warnings?
A. Manufacturers can commence manufacturing tobacco products in plain packaging, labelled with the new health warnings, from now. You are encouraged to speak to your tobacco supplier(s) to determine when they can start supplying you with plain packaged tobacco products labelled with the new health warnings. You are encouraged to think carefully about the quantity of non-plain packaged product with the old health warnings you hold and purchase from now on. This will allow you time to effectively manage your stock so that you do not have surplus non-compliant stock that you will not be able to sell after 1 December 2012.

You are also encouraged to contact your supplier regarding what will happen to any non compliant stock you have after 1 December 2012 – for example, whether or not you can return stock to them for a refund, credit or replacement with plain packaged stock labelled with the new health warnings.

It is your responsibility to work out these arrangements directly with your supplier(s).

Q. Can the timelines be extended to give me more time to prepare for plain packaging and the new health warning requirements?
A. No. From 1 December 2012, it is your responsibility as a retailer or other supplier of tobacco products to ensure that all of the tobacco products that you buy, sell, offer for sale or otherwise supply in Australia meet the tobacco plain packaging and new health warning requirements.

The Australian Government undertook extensive consultation with interested organisations, including retailers and small business groups, when it developed the plain packaging legislation and regulations and the new health warning requirements. Concerns from retailers and other organisations about the timeframes for implementation were considered.

In response, the Government introduced changes to allow a longer lead time for implementation of the laws. These changes will assist retailers and other suppliers to plan and prepare for plain packaging and the new health warning requirements by providing additional time before the full commencement of the legislation, allowing a longer time for the ‘sell through’ of non-compliant stock.

Q. It is not December yet, so why am I already receiving tobacco products that are labelled with the new health warnings from my manufacturer or supplier?
A. Manufacturers can commence manufacturing tobacco products that are labelled with the new health warnings at any time. From 1 January 2012 to 30 November 2012, tobacco products may be labelled with either the old health warnings (in accordance with the Trade Practices (Consumer Product Information Standards) (Tobacco) Regulations 2004) or the new health warnings (in accordance with the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011).

From 1 December 2012, all tobacco products must be labelled with the new health warnings set out in the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011. This includes cigars sold as single items, which will no longer be exempt from the health warning requirements.
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Importation and repackaging

Q. The tobacco products that I sell are manufactured overseas, and my manufacturer or supplier has refused to manufacture or supply them in plain packaging and/or with the new health warnings. What can I do?
A. From 1 December 2012, you can import tobacco products into Australia in non-compliant packaging, so long as the products and their packaging are made compliant before they are sold, offered for sale or otherwise supplied (whether by wholesale or retail sale) in Australia. This may involve repackaging tobacco products into compliant packaging, and/or the alteration of the tobacco product itself (for example, by removing or covering non-compliant cigar bands) to comply with the product requirements in the plain packaging legislation.

You are responsible for sourcing any equipment, materials or other resources you need to ensure that from 1 December 2012 all of your tobacco products and their packaging meet the plain packaging and new health warning requirements prior to being sold, offered for sale or otherwise supplied (whether by wholesale or retail sale) in Australia.

Q. I will be importing tobacco products for my store from overseas in branded packaging. Can I use drab dark brown adhesive stickers to make the packaging compliant with plain packaging?
A. No. The option to cover non-compliant packaging of non-cigarette tobacco products with adhesive material in the specified drab dark brown colour (‘overstickering’), which was proposed in the initial consultation paper on non-cigarette tobacco products, is not permitted in the plain packaging regulations.

The decision not to allow ‘overstickering’ was made by the Australian Government following strong and broad-based feedback in the consultation process that it would not be practical.

Retail packaging for all tobacco products will have to be purpose-made to comply with the plain packaging requirements. Tobacco products that are imported in non-compliant packaging will need to be repacked into compliant packaging before being sold, offered for sale or otherwise supplied in Australia.

Although ‘overstickering’ is not allowed as a way of complying with plain packaging, adhesive labels or bands may be used in limited circumstances. For example, adhesive labels which contain the prescribed health warnings and fire risk statement may be used in some circumstances. For further information concerning the use of adhesive labels or bands see the Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations 2011 and the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011.
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Product Handling

Q. How will I be able to identify different brands under plain packaging?
A. You will still be able to identify particular brands and variants as the brand and variant name can still be printed on the packaging.

In response to targeted consultations and requests made by retailers, the brand name and variant name will be permitted in a standard colour, position, font size and style on the top, front and bottom of cigarette packs and on at least two surfaces of most other retail packaging. The brand name, in 14 point font, has been tested to be legible from one metre. This will assist in handling of packages and restocking.

Current state and territory retail display laws provide for labelling or price tickets on shelves to enable products to be readily located by sales staff. Retailers can also use strategies such as arranging their products in alphabetical order to assist in product handling.

Q. Why is the brand name not located at the top of the front of the packs?
A. Placing the brand name higher up the cigarette pack splits the graphic health warning. Consumer research shows brand names in this position make the health warnings less effective.

Q. Will plain packaging increase handling time for retailers?
A. There is no credible evidence that plain packaging will increase handling time for retailers. The Australian Government does not agree with the tobacco industry-funded research on the impact of plain packaging on transaction times and the consequences for small business.

Independent, peer-reviewed research suggests that rather than plain packaging increasing transaction times, it will modestly decrease transaction times and selection errors. The results of this research indicate that the colours and inconsistent location of names on branded packaging often distract people when they scan for brands. For further information on the research go to The Journal of Tobacco control.

Q. Am I still required to comply with point-of-sale display bans in my store?
A. Yes. The point-of-sale display bans required under state and territory legislation will continue to apply. You should check with your state or territory government which laws apply to you.
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Further Information

Q. What do I do if customers ask about tobacco plain packaging or the new health warnings?
A. Refer them to the yourhealth website (yourhealth website), which provides extensive information on the tobacco plain packaging measure and the new health warning requirements.

Q. Where can I get more information about tobacco plain packaging and the new health warnings?
A. The yourhealth website (yourhealth website) provides extensive information on the tobacco plain packaging and new health warning measures.

These FAQs are intended to provide general information on the tobacco plain packaging and new health warning requirements. They should not be used as a substitute for legal or other expert advice. All information in this publication is correct as at July 2012.

D0832 JULY 2012
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The content in this publication is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth.

These FAQs are intended to provide general information on the tobacco plain packaging and new health warning requirements.They should not be used as a substitute for legal or other expert advice. All information in this publication is correct as at July 2012.

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Page last updated 21 August, 2012