Retailers should prepare for a fresh clampdown on the illicit tobacco trade which will see the introduction of a “Trace & Track” (T&T) scheme that requires buyers to have a unique code when purchasing tobacco products.

From 20 May next year, suppliers and wholesalers of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco products will be required to track and record the movement of products through the supply chain.

The scheme follows on from the introduction of EUTPD II legislation in May 2017, that included the introduction of mandatory plain packaging.  

In a co-signed letter to wholesalers this week, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International, stated each member in the tobacco supply chain will need to prepare and assess how T&T will impact their business.

Meanwhile, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that while details are still to be finalised, retailers who sell tobacco products from a single location will be required to obtain an ‘Economic Operators ID Code’ from whoever is supplying them.

This code will be used when making future purchases from wholesalers, so suppliers can record details on the tracking system.

HMRC said: “Retailers who operate multiple stores will also need to apply for codes for each location where tobacco is sold. HMRC is currently speaking with representatives from the retail sector to understand how regulations will be applied.”

Chris Noice, head of communications and research at the Association of Convenience Stores, said while tackling the illicit trade is essential, the ACS remained concerned about the implementation of T&T. “Many details are yet to be finalised,” he said.

David Worsfold, of Farrants in Cobham, said while the move is commendable, the system itself could pose an “administrative nightmare”. 

“It would be more productive if retailers were given official licences as tobacco traders, rather than introducing a complicated system like this,” he said.