The TRA fully supports sensible, targeted and effective measures that crack down on illegal tobacco sales.
However we are concerned that retailer registration schemes could lead to enforcement efforts being targeted even more towards legitimate traders, rather than towards illegal sellers of smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products.
At the present time in the UK, tobacco retailers in Scotland are required to be registered while those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not.
The issue of tobacco retailer registration or licensing is one that policy makers and politicians raise from time to time. For example the Welsh Government recently consulted the public about the options for a registration scheme for Welsh retailers.
The TRA has concerns that a tobacco retailer registration scheme could be used as a ‘cash cow’ to generate revenue for local authorities and could also be used to artificially restrict the number of tobacco retailers in a given area.
For many years, Governments across the UK have pledged their support to reduce the red tape which affects small businesses. Therefore any proposals for retailer registration schemes should pass this “red tape test” and be clearly focused on tackling illegal tobacco sales.
Meanwhile the TRA continues to campaign for:
- better enforcement of the current legislation restricting the sale of tobacco from those under 18.
- practical initiatives such as No ID No Sale, which helps retailers to avoid and deal with the situation of someone under 18 attempting to buy age-restricted products; and
- more government support for the fight against tobacco smuggling: the TRA works closely with HMRC (for example, in intelligence-sharing) and we believe that organisations like HMRC should be given the resources they need to tackle the illegal trade in counterfeit and smuggled tobacco.
- negative licensing, which would enable the authorities to take action against those few retailers who do flout the law, rather than burden all tobacco retailers with additional red tape and costs.
- a ban on proxy purchasing – to make it illegal for adults to buy tobacco products for young people. This is already the case in Scotland where proxy purchasing is already illegal The TRA has been campaigning for many years for all countries within the United Kingdom to follow the example set by Scotland and Northern Ireland as proxy purchasing is one of the key ways in which the under-age are prevented access to tobacco.