Urgent clarity is being called for on new track and trace regulations for tobacco products, which will place a number of additional new burdens on retailers and potentially prevent them from purchasing tobacco.

The regulations, which are set to be introduced in May 2019 as part of the EU Tobacco Products Directive, will create a new method of tracking the sale of legitimate tobacco products through the supply chain, requiring retailers to apply for and receive a unique ‘economic operator identifier code’ for their business and a ‘facility identifier code’ for each of their stores.

Without the codes, retailers will not be able to buy tobacco legally.

However, with less than one year to go before implementation, there is still a lack of clarity over the time that retailers will be given to apply, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The illicit trade in tobacco is a damaging criminal enterprise that cost the Treasury over £2.5bn last year in lost duties and VAT.

“This criminal trade also hurts legitimate retailers, so we support strong measures to tackle it.

“However, there are still unanswered questions for retailers when it comes to the operation of the incoming track and trace regulations.

“We are working with HMRC to address these questions, notably when will retailers be able to start applying for their Economic Operator Identifier Codes and preparing for the day to day operations under the new regulations?”

Retailers will need to provide a number of details, including their registered name and address, VAT registration status and Tax registration number, as part of the application process.  

All the information will form part of a registry and in “duly justified cases”, Member States may, in accordance with their national laws, require the ID issuer to withdraw codes from a retail business meaning that it would no longer be able to trade tobacco.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has confirmed that there will be no fees associated with the application process for the codes.