Messages seen by RN from Bestway, Booker and Nisa all reassure shop owners who have not received the required economic operator codes or facility IDs that they would continue to supply them with tobacco products.

Nearly two weeks after the 20 May registration deadline, a message from Nisa to non-compliant members read: “We still do not hold your EOIC and/or your FIC codes to enable you to purchase track and trace (tobacco) product.

“While we are not yet stopping supply of cigarettes or rolling tobacco to your store, please can you register for your codes.”

Booker told its members: “If you’re not registered yet, you can still buy tobacco products at Booker after 20 May, but you need to register ASAP.”

Bestway said: “Rest assured, we still have non-track and trace tobacco stock of all lines available for you to buy,” said Bestway.

HMRC confirmed to RN that it is still legal for retailers to purchase tobacco without registering, as long as the products are not marked with unique identifier codes.

However, some wholesalers are refusing to sell tobacco stock to non-track and trace-registered stores.

A senior source at a major buying group claimed that HMRC had warned it not to sell any tobacco to non-registered stores.

Another wholesale source said they had not yet received track and trace-compliant stock from suppliers.

All national wholesalers had pledged to register for customers on their behalf, if they gave the wholesaler their permission, but sources said there had been a surge of recent requests, which was causing delays.

“So many retailers left it to the last minute that the system is now swamped,” claimed one shop owner.