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Australian retailers have urged the Federal Health Minister to listen to his government colleagues and allow small businesses to supply smoke-free alternatives to current consumers of cigarettes and tobacco products.

The Chair’s report from the Senate Committee on Tobacco Harm Reduction, released today, sets out a clear and rational case for making it easy for tobacco users to transition to less harmful smoke-free alternatives.

The report, by the majority of Government Senators, reflects strong views that have been aired in the Coalition joint party room in recent weeks.

It outlines thousands of personal accounts provided to the committee of people quitting cigarettes and enjoying improved health, and it raises serious questions about the Health Department’s proposal to force smokers to go to the doctor if they want to transition away from cigarettes to vaping.

National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb welcomed the findings by the Committee Chair and Government majority, and called on the Health Minister to listen to his colleagues and to the thousands of Australians who had urged the committee to legalise nicotine vaping.

“Many Australian retailers would like the opportunity to transition their businesses away from cigarettes and tobacco to a less harmful product such as e-cigarettes,” Ms Lamb said.

“The Federal Government’s current proposal would be that vaping and smoke-free products would only be available from chemists, by prescription from a doctor.

“This is not only a roadblock to smokers who want to give up cigarettes, but it also means that many businesses must keep relying on tobacco sales in order to prop up their bottom line.

“We welcome the findings of the majority government committee, and we hope that the Minister will listen to the views of his colleagues and get on board.

“Australian retailers are ambitious in their tobacco harm reduction efforts, and they would like to see the Federal Government get on board with them.”

Ms Lamb noted that the Opposition and cross bench Senators had opposed the legalisation of vaping, and in doing so had dismissed the concerns of Australian retailers who wanted access to less harmful nicotine products.

“Some of the claims in the Labor report simply defy logic,” Ms Lamb said.

“They gloss over the glaring contradiction that allow cigarette sales over the counter at service stations and convenience stores, but which will require a doctor to allow smokers access to less harmful alternatives.

“And in the case of the Australian Greens, they ‘recognise that e-cigarettes are considered safer than combustible cigarettes’, but still refuse to help smokers to access them more easily.

“They make the ludicrous argument that e-cigarettes should be made available only on prescription, while also having a policy position that marijuana should be freely and legally available.

“That the Federal Government has to turn to the Greens, Labor and cross-benchers to cobble together Senate Committee support for its policy shows just how ludicrous its position is.

“We hope that in the new year common sense will prevail and the Health Minister will listen to the views of his colleagues on this important issue.”