18A.5 Regulating sale and promotion of smokeless tobacco

Last updated: February 2023
Suggested citation:
Greenhalgh, EM & Hanley-Jones, S. InDepth 18A.5 Regulating sale and promotion of smokeless tobacco. In Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2023. Available from:  http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-18-harm-reduction/indepth-18a-smokeless-tobacco 


Oral tobacco was briefly marketed in Australia during the 1980s, however all smokeless tobacco products were subsequently banned in several states during the late 1980s. A permanent federal ban on the manufacture, importation and commercial supply of the products came into effect in June 1991,1 although consumers are able to privately import up to 1.5 kilograms of smokeless tobacco into Australia.2 In mid-2006 there was a significant increase in taxation on these products, from $2.30/kg to $300.39/kg,3 taking the customs duty into line with that in all other tobacco products.

This regulatory framework allows current users to access smokeless tobacco, while discouraging uptake by non-tobacco users (especially young people).4 Some health experts advocate wider availability of smokeless tobacco, arguing that these products have the potential to reduce tobacco-related disease, and that it is nonsensical that the most harmful form of tobacco product (cigarettes) is subject to far fewer restrictions. Reducing taxes and allowing commercial importation and supply could potentially promote reduced harm among smokers who switch to smokeless products.5, 6 Others are more wary, citing potential for dual use (i.e., the use of smokeless products in smokefree areas) and concern that the tobacco industry may use covert advertising techniques to promote uptake by young people.7

Nine key recommendations for smokeless tobacco control have been issued by WHO FCTC and include:

  • ‘all forms of tobacco products should be explicitly included under the legal definition for comprehensive regulation of traditional or novel smoking and smokeless tobacco products
  • taxation of all kinds of tobacco products without any exemptions should be considered, and at a rate uniform with other comparable products and adjusted to inflation and income growth
  • standard operating procedures for testing key contents of smokeless tobacco products and comprehensive guidelines for Articles 9 and 10, with special reference to smokeless tobacco for adoption by COP9, should be developed, verified, and validated
  • multiple messages relevant to smokeless tobacco products should be identified for pictorial warnings and packaging should be standardised so that health warnings on smokeless tobacco products are clearly visible
  • locally relevant, tailor-made comprehensive educational campaigns should be developed and implemented to dispel myths related to smokeless tobacco use among specific target populations to change tobacco use behaviour
  • comprehensive tobacco-related advertising, promotion, and sponsorship bans for smokeless tobacco, including cross-border bans, should be implemented
  • health professionals should be trained to provide behavioural interventions specifically for smokeless tobacco cessation, and their capacity to implement cessation interventions should be improved
  • sale of smokeless tobacco products to and use by minors should be prevented while implementing the comprehensive provisions under Article 16
  • smokeless tobacco use patterns and trends should be monitored, as well as its effects on health, economic, social and environmental aspects, for implementing comprehensive smokeless tobacco control policies globally.’8


1. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. Smokeless tobacco products. Available from: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/974275#toc5

2. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. Importing smokeless tobacco. Available from: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/975942

3. Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Tax Reform and Other Measures) Act. Australian Government, 2006. Available from: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2006L02020

4. Tobacco Working Group. Tobacco control in Australia: making smoking history.  Prepared for the National Preventative Health Taskforce by the Tobacco Working Group. Technical report (Preventative Health Taskforce Secretariat, Department of Health and Ageing), Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2008. Available from: http://www.preventativehealth.org.au/

5. Gartner CE and Hall WD. Should Australia lift its ban on low nitrosamine smokeless tobacco products? Medical Journal of Australia, 2008; 188(1):44–6. Available from: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2008/188/1/should-australia-lift-its-ban-low-nitrosamine-smokeless-tobacco-products#21

6. Gartner C, Hall W, and Borland R. How should we regulate smokeless tobacco products and e-cigarettes? The Medical Journal of Australia, 2012; 197(11):611–2. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23230916

7. Chapman S. Repealing Australia's ban on smokeless tobacco? Hasten slowly. Medical Journal of Australia, 2008; 188(1):47–9. Available from: https://mjainsight.com.au/system/files/issues/188_01_070108/cha11127_fm.pdf

8. Mehrotra R, Yadav A, Sinha DN, Parascandola M, John RM, et al. Smokeless tobacco control in 180 countries across the globe: call to action for full implementation of WHO FCTC measures. Lancet Oncology, 2019; 20(4):e208-e17. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30942182