Retailers are still unaware of the upcoming tobacco track and trace legislation, despite being given a three-week window to register.

The legislation is designed to tackle illicit tobacco by requiring wholesalers to scan unique codes on tobacco from 20 May.

However, retailers will only have three weeks from 30 April to apply for their own codes.

One identifies them as a business owner, while separate codes for every store that sells tobacco are also required. 

Although retailers have a year from 20 May to sell pre-track and trace tobacco, they will be unable to buy or sell the products without the codes. 

Exact details on registration are yet to be released by HMRC. 

Five out of five retailers contacted by RN had not heard of track and trace. Seelan Thambirajah said: “The timescale we have been given is disappointing. Having to get unique codes for all 15 of my stores is going to be a nightmare.”

Unitas Wholesale retail director John Kinney added there will be a number of retailers unable to apply within HMRC’s required window. “The three-week time frame is ridiculous,” he said. “There’s no reason to impose such a short registration deadline when track and trace has been in the planning for so long. 

“It will be ridiculous for all retailers to register within that time frame due to simple practicalities such as holidays. HMRC hasn’t understood the breadth of our sector.”

Many wholesalers across the UK had pledged to register their retail customers for them, if they give permission. 

However, Scottish Wholesale Association chief executive Colin Smith warned the technology required for wholesalers to scan and sell tobacco will not be ready by 20 May. “There’s no point forcing retailers to register if they can’t do anything with their codes,” he said.

A senior tobacco industry source warned RN that retailers should not rely on wholesalers and instead register directly themselves because retailers remain liable for compliance. 

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