Retailers caught repeatedly selling illicit tobacco will be stripped of their legal ability to buy tobacco for all of their stores, new Track and Trace regulations published for consultation today (11 February) confirm.

From 20 May retailers will need two unique codes in order to purchase tobacco legally, an ‘economic operator identifier code’ for their business and a ‘facility identifier code’ for each of their stores.

While retailers are still anxiously awaiting information on how to apply for the codes, the consultation document sets out a number of circumstances in which the ‘economic operator identifier’ code can be deactivated.

The technical consultation on the draft Tobacco Products Traceability and Security Features Regulations states:

  • HM Revenue and Customs’ appointed ID Issuer (HMRC) will deactivate codes in a number of cases, including if a retailer has failed to comply with the new regulations on three or more occasions within a year and, as a result of each of those failures, non-compliant tobacco products have been seized.
  • Retailers will also have their codes deactivated if they receive a conviction, other than a conviction treated as spent for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, for an offence under the customs and excise Acts.
  • Codes will also be deactivated if a retailer becomes liable to a penalty or penalties under the customs and excise Acts exceeding £10,000, and if they have not been used for 12 months.

Retailers will be given written notice of their code’s deactivation and the length of time that it will be in place for. They will then need to apply for their codes to be re-activated following a period of deactivation.

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.

Packs will feature a new Unique Identifier Code as well as 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.

The consultation closes on 11 March. Read it here