More than $2 million worth of illegal tobacco products have been seized in a series of coordinated raids, following Queensland Labor’s tough new policies passed in May. In a clear warning to those possessing and selling illegal tobacco products, Queensland Health led a strike on 10 retail outlets on Tuesday morning in Emerald, Mackay, Townsville, Yeppoon, Ayr and Rockhampton.

These raids coincided with an Australian Border Force-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce operation on the Gold Coast, which Queensland Health assisted with.Together, these raids led to the seizure of more than $2 million worth of items, including 54,000 vapes. Preliminary counting shows that the Queensland Health-led retail raids were responsible for seizing:

  • Over 7,300 vapes
  • 343kg of illicit tobacco
  • Hundreds of other illegal products, including drug utensils

The raids follow Labor’s tough new policies passed by the board in May, which granted Queensland Health stronger powers to crack down on illicit tobacco. The seizure of vapes follows a Queensland Health report released in May detailing the contents of vapes, which found that all contained extremely high levels of nicotine, as well as chemicals such as formaldehyde, arsenic, lead, and mercury.

Acting Chief Health Officer Catherine McDougall said: “It is clear from the research that e-cigarette use carries the risk of significant harm.

“E-cigarette products available today can contain up to 243 unique chemical compounds, including lead, arsenic and formaldehyde.”

These chemicals can be extremely dangerous, particularly when inhaled. “Many e-cigarette products also contain illicit nicotine. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known and has demonstrated detrimental effects on brain development.

“Queenslanders have done an extraordinary job in reducing rates of smoking over the past 10 years, reducing the burden of disease associated with tobacco use.”

“Any efforts to reduce accessibility of tobacco and nicotine-containing products should be welcomed and applauded.”

Background Information Under Labor’s new tobacco policy the maximum penalty for supplying illicit tobacco is $43,125 and the maximum penalty for storing illicit tobacco is $20,125. Queensland Health is now the lead agency for investigating and seizing illegal tobacco in retail settings.

New information sharing powers allow intelligence to be shared with members of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce, which investigates and targets the illegal importation and cultivation of tobacco. In addition to stronger enforcement powers, the new legislation introduced a licensing scheme for the sale of tobacco, the expansion of smoke-free areas and tougher restrictions on cigarette and vape sales in licensed venues.