HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is consulting on introducing a tobacco licensing scheme in a bid to tackle the illicit trade.

Launched today, and closing on 20 May, the consultation seeks to establish the costs, benefits and challenges of introducing tobacco licensing for retailers and all other parts of the supply chain.

“The government is keen to ensure that any response to the illicit tobacco trade is proportionate and does not add an undue administrative burden on business,” HMRC said.

“It will therefore be seeking views from a wide range of stakeholders to establish clear evidence-based rationale for its decisions.” 

As a signatory of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the UK government is obliged to explore the extent to which tobacco licensing is appropriate in the tobacco supply chain. 

The Association of Convenience Stores said it was against any sort of licensing system. Chief executive James Lowman said: “Licensing systems load costs and administrative burdens on retailers, and registration schemes have not been effective in tackling the illicit tobacco in devolved assemblies. 

“We will be responding to the consultation calling on HMRC and enforcement agencies to use the existing resources and penalties to tackle the illicit trade.”

The full consultation document is available here