January 25, 2015 |  Scott Hannaford | Canberra Times reporter

The lobby group representing adult shops has called on the ACT government to ban the sale of cigarettes from supermarkets and service stations and to restrict their sale to adult-only stores.

In a submission to the ACT Government, Eros argues that allowing children to see cigarettes being purchased by their parents alongside groceries, petrol and other everyday items detracts from the harm minimisation messages the government is trying to send.

Forcing the sale of tobacco and other products such as so-called legal highs, adult toys and clothing into over-18 only stores would also create a network of retailers who could eventually sell medical and recreational marijuana, which Eros spokesman Robbie Swan said was inevitable following changes to legislation in the United States and elsewhere.

“We’re already encouraging our members to get tobacco licences because we think it makes sense. We’re seeing growing markets in a range of herbal products, which aren’t appropriate for kids, so why not have all of these products sold through stores that are restricted to adults only?,” Mr Swan said.

“The ACT Government will have shown the foresight and good managerial style in organising ‘adults only’ retailing to the point where they have a ready made network with all the necessary restrictions, safeguards and licences in place to handle the next generation of social tonics and medicines that will sweep over Australia … chemists, supermarkets and service stations are not the right place to sell these,” he said.

Currently the ACT has around 300 age-restricted premises which include pubs, clubs, TABs, adult stores and brothels.

Manager of the Ainslie IGA supermarket Manuel Xyrakis is one retailer who investigated moving tobacco products out of his supermarket, but said he faced a backlash from customers when he floated the idea with them.

“When we renovated we moved the liquor next door (to a separate store) and a couple of customers said to me, ‘Manuel, wouldn’t it be great if we could come in here with our families and not have cigarettes in our face. But when I surveyed our customers, most of them said they’d go elsewhere if we tried to move the cigarettes to the liquor store,” Mr Xyrakis said.

“I don’t smoke, I hate the things, but the reality is that for some small stores cigarettes make up to 50 per cent of their sales, so if you stopped them from selling tobacco all you’d do is force those guys out of business and favour the larger retailers.”

Mr Xyrakis said despite his liquor and supermarket stores sitting side by side and both having a licence to sell tobacco, only about 10 per cent of his tobacco product sales came from the liquor store, with most of his smoking customers preferring to purchase cigarettes along with their groceries.

A spokesman for Health Minister Simon Corbell said ACT Health was preparing its response to the community consultation on the issue, including possible policy options for restricting access to tobacco.

” At this stage, none of the options included in the consultation paper have been ruled in or out,” the spokesman said.

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