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A retail trade association has written to Exchequer Secretary Andrew Jones, raising concerns about the impact of the upcoming tobacco ‘track and trace’ regulations on retailers.
The ‘track and trace’ proposals in the EU Revised Tobacco Products Directive, due to come into force in May 2019, aim to introduce a method of tracking the sale of legitimate tobacco products through the supply chain. So far, the Directive has stated that they would only affect the ‘last economic operator before the first retail outlet’ but the latest draft of the regulations includes a number of demands on retailers purchasing tobacco from a wholesaler, the ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) points out.
Under the draft regulations, retailers would have to register to receive both an ‘economic operator identifier code’ for their business and a ‘facility identifier code’ for each store, which would need to be presented whenever a transaction with a wholesaler takes place.
The ACS in its letter to HM Treasury points to a burden on legitimate business, and a lack of clarity over the fees associated with applying for these codes, which ACS raised in its submission to the consultation on the regulations in October, besides its concern over the associated costs of the proposals such as staff training.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Tackling the illicit tobacco market must be a top priority, but this should be achieved through local enforcement and strict penalties for offenders. In their current form, the ‘track and trace’ proposals will impose significant cost and time burdens on responsible retailers and act as a registration system for tobacco, the likes of which the UK Government has already ruled out. We are urging the minister and his colleagues in the Treasury to look closely at the impact of these regulations on retailers in discussions with the EU Commission.”
As background, 2014/40/EU, the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is a set of rules, for all European Union member states, which specifies how tobacco products can be made, presented and sold. The traceability of such products will require a security feature. The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, another trade body, points out that since October 2007 all cigarettes made for the UK market by its member companies and Philip Morris International carry a covert anti-counterfeit taggant, which can be checked by readers used by HM Revenue and Customs, and Trading Standards. A summer 2017 anti-smuggling campaign by the TMA included messages in Polish on coffee cups at Poznan airport and on coaches from Poland to the UK.
The UK Government says that it’s keen to ensure that any response to the illicit tobacco trade is proportionate and does not add an undue administrative burden on business. For instance it’s gone out to consultation over whether to make the mandatory control of tobacco manufacturing equipment; and whether the UK should license wholesalers, retailers and brokers of tobacco products.