The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has urged the government to scrap its plans for a tobacco licensing scheme, in favour of more targeted measures to reduce the illicit tobacco trade.

Responding to the consultation ahead of its closure last week, the ACS called for greater powers for trading standards officers to tackle the problem locally.

The most common actions currently taken against those caught selling illicit tobacco are verbal or written warnings, rather than the fines and banning orders that can be used as penalties, it added.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We do not believe that tobacco licensing is an effective deterrent to the illicit trade and instead serves only to impose financial and administrative burdens on retailers.

“We are calling for trading standards officers to be given more powers to deal with those who supply and sell illicit tobacco at a local level.

“Current sanctioning powers are too focused on seizures at our borders and do not address the problems that responsible retailers face from unscrupulous competitors in communities across the country.”

The illicit tobacco trade cost the exchequer £2.1bn in 2013/14 alone in lost revenue. For the alcohol market, where a licensing scheme has been in place for several years, the loss to the exchequer through the illicit trade has grown from £830m in 2008/9 to £1.2bn in 2013/14.

The consultation closed on 20 May.