Sunstar Group

Concerns have been raised over the government’s proposals to introduce a generational ban on the sale of tobacco products.

A survey of 1,000 retailers, carried out by JTI, found that 86% of convenience retailers believe the proposals will have a negative impact on their business. Nearly two-thirds said the generational ban will be costly to their business in terms of implementation, with 55% saying it will make ID checks more complicated for their staff and 58% stating it will impact staff training specifically around underage sales.

There were also concerns about the rise in the illicit trade with more than two-thirds (67%) of the retailers surveyed said that the generational tobacco ban would likely lead to an increase in illicit tobacco activity, with 66% also stating that they believe the government does not have the required funding or resource to police a generational ban.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents said tobacco remains an important category to when it comes to generating footfall in store, with a quarter of stores stating that 50% or more of their total revenue is from customers who purchase tobacco and other non-tobacco related items in the same basket.

Respondents suggested that the tobacco age limit could be raised to 21, whilst others stated that consumers should be left to make their own choice when it comes to purchasing tobacco. Some of the retailers surveyed believed that tobacco laws should be left as they are, because of the negative impacts the ban would have on the convenience retail sector.

Commenting on the proposed ban, owner of Londis Bexley Park Nishi Patel, said: “We’re already battling a growing illicit tobacco problem across the country, and I have no doubt that this ban would simply hand more of the UK tobacco market into the hands of criminals. Smuggled tobacco already costs law-abiding retailers thousands of pounds as smokers switch to cheaper, un-taxed and un-regulated illegal products. The police and Trading Standards would need significant additional support to ensure both the ban is enforced and to keep a lid on illicit trade.”

Atul Sodha, owner of Londis Harefield, Uxbridge, added: “It’s difficult to see how this proposed tobacco ban would be properly enforced. It’s a deeply impractical law, which means at some point retailers will be expected to distinguish between 36 and 37-year-olds when deciding who to sell tobacco products to. An increase in ID checks will likely slow down transactions in-store which can lead to frustrated customers.”

Paul Cheema of Malcolm’s Convenience and Forecourt in Coventry, expressed concern that a ban could lead to more violence against retail staff. “The proposed tobacco ban will hit convenience retailers the hardest. We know from recent reports, and our own experiences, that violence or abuse towards shopkeepers is on the rise, with ID checks or refusal of sale often a common cause of this. It’s fair to say that the proposed ban would highly likely exacerbate this issue and drive a further increase in threatening behaviour against retailers.”