Government launches illegal tobacco crackdown, as bikie ‘turf war’ on tobacco shops rages on

Government launches illegal tobacco crackdown, as bikie ‘turf war’ on tobacco shops rages on

As another tobacco shop burns in Melbourne, the federal government has launched a $188 million crackdown to combat an escalating “turf war” over illegal tobacco, following its January 1 ban of disposable vapes.

Key points:

  • A series of arson attacks have been linked to criminal gang fighting over the tobacco black market
  • The federal government will give Border Force an additional $188 million to combat the illicit trade of tobacco
  • Mark Butler says it is a continuation of their efforts to stamp out vaping and cut smoking rates

Victoria Police yesterday said the current situation appeared to be the result of “criminal syndicates in conflict due to competition for profit derived from the illicit tobacco market”.

The latest incident involved a suspicious fire at a tobacco store in Melbourne’s north this morning.

Police in Victoria have 28 active arson investigations running, including several more tobacco and vape shops as well as gyms, restaurants and private addresses linked to a bikie gang turf war.

Five men allegedly connected to the Finks outlaw motorcycle gang were also arrested yesterday in connection to four tobacco store attacks and a cafe blaze over recent weeks.

The tobacco shop fire in Craigieburn is believed to be the latest in a string of arson attacks linked to criminal gangs.(ABC News)

Crackdown to further government’s efforts to cut smoking rates

The federal government has been progressing restrictions on vaping to prevent a new generation picking up smoking, and banned the importation of disposable vapes at the start of the year.

Health Minister Mark Butler said the crackdown would help to “stamp out” vaping and cut smoking rates, as well as deal with criminal syndicates seeking to profit from the import ban.

“These additional resources will help fund activity overseas to shut down this illegal trafficking at its source, it will help boost interception activities at the border by [Australian Border Force], including through the use of new technologies like AI,” Mr Butler said.

“It will also help fund intelligence gathering activities … to intercept the activity of organised crime gangs.”

Health Minister Mark Butler says additional resources for Border Force will help further the government’s efforts to cut smoking rates.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Mr Butler said the illegal tobacco market was an “ATM” for organised crime, which funded other criminal activities including drug and sex trafficking.

He said estimates from the Australian Tax Office suggested the tobacco black market was costing taxpayers more than $2 billion every year in lost revenue. 

“Everyone is paying a price for this activity,” he said.

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