Plans to launch a new Track and Trace system to help stem the flow of illicit tobacco products are progressing, now that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has appointed the UK’s ID Issuer.

The ID Issuer will be responsible for sending retailers the two new codes that they will need in order to purchase tobacco legally from 20 May 2019.

Retailers will need to apply to the new ID Issuer to receive an ‘economic operator identifier code’ for their business and a ‘facility identifier code’ for each of their stores and HMRC is also now working on guidance for retailers on how to do so.

It is understood that retailers will be issued with their codes within two working days of their applications, and that registered third parties, such as wholesalers and symbol groups, will able to apply for codes on behalf of retailers.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “Following a full and competitive tender exercise HMRC has chosen a preferred supplier and is currently working through the final stages of the commercial process.”

Forming part of the EU Tobacco Products Directive, the Track and Trace regulations are designed to curb the illicit trade by introducing a new method of tracking the sale of legitimate tobacco products through the supply chain.

From 20 May 2019 the Track and Trace regulations also require all unit packs of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco manufactured in, or imported into the UK to carry at least five security features which include overt, semi-covert and covert elements.

The features include a Unique identifier code (UID) which will also be supplied by the UK’s new ID Issuer.

Packs must also be marked with a Guilloche (an ornamental pattern of two or more interlaced bands) microprint that requires magnification to become readable, anti-stoke ink that requires a purpose built tool or a laboratory to be detected and or molecular taggants embedded within the base material of the packaging that also need a purpose built tool or a laboratory to be detected.

Retailers will have until 20 May 2020 to sell through tobacco products manufactured before 20 May 2019 that do not include the new security features.