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Understanding why some Australian retailers have stopped selling tobacco, some might and some are unlikely
  1. Christina Watts1,2,
  2. Suzan Burton3,
  3. Fiona Phillips4,
  4. Kelly Kennington4,
  5. Michelle Scollo5,
  6. Kylie Lindorff6,
  7. Sam Egger7
  1. 1 Cancer Prevention and Advocacy Division, Cancer Council New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Sydney School of Public Health, Prevention Research Collaboration, Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 School of Business, Western Sydney University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4 Cancer Prevention and Research Division, Cancer Council Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  5. 5 Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  6. 6 Quit Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  7. 7 Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Christina Watts, Cancer Council New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2011, Australia; christinaw{at}


Background Widespread availability of tobacco has been shown to contribute to ongoing smoking and make quitting harder. This study investigates why some retailers in three Australian states decided to stop selling tobacco, others might stop selling and why others continue to sell in a declining market.

Methods A telephone survey of 4527 randomly selected retailers was conducted in August 2018 (response rate=72.4%). This study examines responses to open-ended questions in the survey probing retailers’ attitudes and beliefs regarding selling (or not selling) tobacco.

Results 27.3% of the sample sold tobacco, and 13.3% had formerly sold. Outlets that had stopped selling most frequently mentioned minimal profit and/or sales as the reason for stopping selling (27.7% across all states). This was also the most frequent reason why retailers said they might stop selling. Uniquely in Western Australia (the only state in the study with a fee-based licensing scheme), 12.5% of former tobacco retailers named tobacco licensing as the reason for stopping sales—the second most frequent reason in Western Australia. Of current sellers who were unlikely to stop, the potential to lose sales was the most frequently named reason (31.0% across all states).

Conclusion Retailers report being driven by the profitability of tobacco when deciding whether or not to stop selling, although only a small percentage discussed losing incremental sales if they stopped selling. An annual licence fee contributed to some retailers stopping selling, showing that a fee-based tobacco license can contribute to a decline in retail availability of tobacco.

  • prevention
  • public policy
  • tobacco industry

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  • Contributors CW, SB, KK, FP, KL, MS and SE conceptualised and designed the study. CW and SB interpreted and analysed the data. All authors reviewed, contributed to and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was supported by Cancer Council Victoria, Cancer Council Western Australia and Cancer Council NSW.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.