The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called for plans for a tobacco register in Wales to be scrapped while giving evidence to the Health, Social Care and Sports committee on the Public Health Wales (PHW) Bill.
During the evidence session, the ACS acknowledged the “significant negative impact” that the illicit tobacco market has on both legitimate retailers and the Treasury, but instead suggested strengthening the existing sanctions available to enforcement authorities.
A tobacco register was introduced across Scotland in 2011, but the ACS claims there has been “no evidence that there has been a reduction in prevalence of illicit tobacco as a result”.
ACS’ recommendations made in a submission on the provisions of the Bill included more effective sanctions available to trading standards officers such as the revocation of alcohol licences for selling illicit tobacco and additional powers to sanction retailers by using the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979 (CEMA). The ACS also proposed extending the Restricted Premise Order to include illicit tobacco as an offence, creating a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ system for illicit tobacco.
Edward Woodall, head of public affairs and policy for ACS, said: “While we believe that more needs to be done to tackle the illicit trade, we do not believe that a tobacco register would be an effective measure. Trading standards officers need to make the most of the powers already available to them to reduce the problem of illicit tobacco.
“Compliance with tobacco regulations in the convenience sector is already very good, as shown by the successful implementation of the tobacco display ban. The current Scottish Tobacco Retail Register has seen very few retailers removed from the list as a result of non-compliance with tobacco, so we remain skeptical of its effectiveness.”
If passed, the Public Health Bill (Wales) will introduce a register for retailers that sell tobacco that would cost £30 to register and an additional £10 per new store to go on the Register.
In the UK the illicit tobacco market results in £2.4bn in lost revenue to the Treasury.