The Government’s approach to the illicit trade in tobacco leaves the UK trailing behind countries like Brazil and Kenya.

Speaking exclusively to Retail Express, Scottish National Party MP Martyn Day said he was standing up for law-abiding retailers by calling on the Government to give formal consent to a document designed to eliminate the illicit trade. The document
includes the introduction of practices such as track and trace.

The UK signed the World Health Organisation’s Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products in December 2013, but has failed to ratify it, putting the UK in the same situation as Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Day said track and trace systems have already been introduced in Brazil and Kenya for a minimal cost. “The UK is a modern first-world country and we should be taking a lead and showing leadership to the rest of the world – not dragging our feet,” he told Retail Express.

“It’s a poor state of affairs when you’re playing catch up with Brazil and Kenya.”

Day said it was a “no-brainer” to confirm the agreement. “I genuinely don’t know why the Government is holding back. So much income has been lost, it should be a higher priority than it is,” he said, pointing to the £2.4bn of lost revenue to the Treasury from the tobacco black market.

“You can bring in an independent system relatively cheaply and it’s not going to affect legitimate smokers, it’s just going to stamp out the illicit trade,” he said.

“Illicit traders are going to keep peddling their products until they get stamped out. People are making real money from it.” 

He pledged to keep pushing the matter in Parliament to put more money back in retailers’ tills and the Treasury’s pocket, and added that he was keen to hear from retailers affected by the illicit trade. “It’s obviously harming legitimate businesses,” he said.

“Independent corner shops are lifelines for small communities and if they become less viable it’s going to have a knock-on effect. We need those stores.”