The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has acknowledged the High Court’s decision to introduce plain packaging on cigarette packets will be a long term solution to reducing the incidence of smoking.

However, the question as to how retailers will be supported through the change remains unanswered.

AACS executive director Jeff Rogut said the High Court decision enables small businesses to begin preparing for the new regulations. The problem, he said, is that Government has consistently overlooked and ignored what the changes mean for retailers.

“Time and again we pledged our support to Government’s health outcomes where plain packaging is concerned. In turn we called only for a more realistic timeframe for the introduction of the regulations, to reflect the nature of retail businesses, or failing this a moratorium on prosecution of retailers until March 2013,” he said.

“Now that Government has received a green light from the High Court we are pleading for the forgotten voice of retailers to be heard so small businesses aren’t forced to bear the financial brunt of new legislation as they have so often done before.”

As it currently stands, the plain packaging reforms require tobacco wholesalers to only distribute cigarettes in standardised green packages from October 1, with retailers left to sell all branded stock within eight weeks, by December 1, or face hefty fines of as much as $220,000.

According to AACS, an eight week trading window is simply not achievable and retailers risk being left with thousands of dollars worth of obsolete tobacco stock.

“What we are asking for, in the scheme of things, is of absolutely no consequence to the success of the measures but is absolutely critical to the bottom of line of a struggling small business sector. It beggars belief that such a simple show of support for small business not only continues to be overlooked, but fails to even elicit consideration,” Rogut said.

“Now the High Court decision is out of the way and Government is able to proceed, we strongly urge Government to consider the financial implications of the reforms and support retailers through the changes.”