The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) launched an advertising campaign in Bundaberg today to help raise awareness in the community about illegal tobacco.
Growing tobacco in Australia for commercial sale or personal use is illegal and has been since 2006.
In May last year the ATO seized more than 53 acres of illegal tobacco with an estimated excise value of $30 million near Bundaberg.
This was the largest cross-jurisdictional illegal tobacco seizure in the ATO's history; it included a record 28 tonnes of illegal crops and 45,000 seedlings.
Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said local residents should keep an eye out as it is peak growing season right now.
“The growing season typically runs from November to May and it is often grown in rural areas in central Victoria, southern NSW and Southern Queensland and Northern Territory,” Mr Vujanic said.
The illegal market is primarily supplied by organised criminal syndicates. The ATO estimates that $600 million in foregone excise duty went to criminals instead of the community in 2015-16.
“The profits which these syndicates make from the sale of illegal tobacco fund their lifestyles and allow them to continue to engage in criminal behaviour well beyond the sale of illegal tobacco. It also takes away potential tax dollars from the Australian community which could otherwise go to essential services such as roads, school and hospitals.” Mr Vujanic said.
Since 1 July 2016 the ATO has undertaken 38 seizures of approximately 240 tonnes of illicit tobacco.
Bundaberg locals may notice advertising in their Facebook news feed, in local papers and when browsing the internet.
The ads are designed to help people recognise the signs of illegal tobacco growing operations and report it to the ATO.
The ATO is part of the multi-agency Illicit Tobacco Taskforce, which is fighting back against organised criminals growing and importing illegal tobacco in Australia.
People growing tobacco can face up to 10 years imprisonment and significant monetary penalties.
If a member of the community has any knowledge or concerns about someone doing the wrong thing they can report it online at ato.gov.au/illegaltobacco or by calling 1800 060 062.