Licensing has been identified as the next major threat for tobacco retailers as the proposed new regulation raises fear of a cap on the number of stores able to sell tobacco products.

The warning comes in response to an HMRC consultation on the introduction of a tobacco licence in the UK to clamp down on the illicit trade, and ahead of the judgement on the plain packaging challenge.

A senior legal expert for a major tobacco supplier told RN licensing has been singled out as the next major threat to tobacco retailers.

He added there are concerns a licensing system would give local authorities the ability to limit the number of stores it would allow to sell tobacco in any particular area.

This was echoed by Philip Morris’ head of regulatory affairs, Alastair Mackay, at the NFRN’s national council meeting last week.

Mr Mackay said the licence presented another challenge for retailers, adding while the company can see some benefits, there is also a fear it could lead to further restrictions such as a cap on the number of licences available.

“What we have seen in other countries is a licence is the first step to limiting access,” he said.