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The National Retail Association (NRA) has expressed its concern about a Federal Government proposal to hand pharmacies a monopoly over the sale of smoke-free nicotine products.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said the proposal represented the “worst of both worlds” for small convenience retailers who currently rely on tobacco sales for a large proportion of their income, but who would be locked out of transitioning to a less harmful alternative.

“The NRA understands the Federal Government has asked the Therapeutic Goods Administration to consider whether smoke-free nicotine products should be made available for sale in pharmacies – either by prescription or with the authorisation of a pharmacist,” Ms Lamb said.

“This makes no sense, that cigarettes would be freely available over the counter in corner stores and service stations, but the product that can help people transition away from smoking would be restricted.

“So outside doctors’ or pharmacists’ work hours, the only available option would be cigarettes. This flies in the face of common sense.”

Ms Lamb has written to all members of the Federal Government welcoming the recognition of nicotine vaping products as less harmful than cigarettes, but expressing concern about the damage the pharmacy monopoly would cause small retail businesses.

“Retailers are opposed to this highly deficient approach which represents the worst of both worlds in terms of disrupting local retail market dynamics, and detracts from the public health opportunities at hand that a more inclusive retail model would deliver,” the letter says.

“The deliberate exclusion of family and small businesses being able to participate in the sale of these less harmful alternatives to cigarettes is unconscionable, illogical and indefensible.

“It will disrupt market dynamics, detract from public health goals, and put the future sustainability of thousands of already struggling local small and family businesses at risk.”

Ms Lamb called on the Federal Government to withdraw its proposal to “pick favourites and create a monopoly”, and instead enlist the nation’s 20,000 cigarette retailers in the fight to shift smokers towards a less harmful product.