Track and Trace is coming soon

JTI head of communications Mark Yexley explains what new tobacco rules will mean for convenience retailers

Track and Trace has been designed to make life harder for those selling illicit tobacco products.
Track and Trace has been designed to make life harder for those selling illicit tobacco products.

TRACK and Trace is coming, meaning that from 20 May this year all cigarettes and roll your own tobacco that is manufactured or imported into the UK will require a new Unique Identifier Code.

Retailers will also need to have two ID codes – an Economic Operator Identifier Code (EOID) and a Facility Identifier Code (FID) – however a recent JTI survey has revealed many independent stores are unaware of this new obligation.

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The survey of 1,400 retailers carried out via JTI Advance found 70% of those surveyed were unaware they had to apply for two separate identifier codes, whilst 60% admitted that they were unsure of when the legislation comes into effect.

To help clear things up, Mark Yexley, head of communications at JTI, explained to Scottish Grocer just what Track and Trace will mean for convenience stores.

“For retailers, when they go to the wholesaler to buy new stock they’ll take their codes along to purchase new stock,” he said.

“The legislation is there to hopefully tackle illicit trade. There’s going to be a range of different security features on packs which the authorities hope will be able to help them detect counterfeit products.

“Obviously counterfeiters are not going to be able to counterfeit working codes, so if they do replicate packs those codes are not going to work. The hope is that this will have some impact.”

The real key to any legislation like this is making sure there is strict enforcement in place.

As Scottish Grocer went to press HMRC had announced that security and anti-counterfeiting firm De La Rue will be responsible for handling Track and Trace implementation, however HMRC had not yet revealed how the process of applying for ID codes will work. HMRC told Scottish Grocer this information will be available “in the coming weeks.”

Despite the tight turnaround, HMRC was insistent that 20 May will be the implementation date for Track and Trace, but that doesn’t mean retailers need to panic over existing stock, as Yexley explained.

“For one year retailers can continue to sell existing stock,” he said.

“I think we’ve probably seen from the past that a year is probably a good enough time period for retailers to sell that existing stock that they’ve got and then move into compliant stock.”

For Track and Trace to be successful, it will undoubtedly require cooperation from retailers, but Yexley was keen to highlight the need for the authorities to hold up their end of the bargain.

“The real key to any legislation like this is making sure there is strict enforcement in place to protect the genuine retailer that is trying to go about their daily reputable business,” he said.

Track and Trace is unlikely to wipe out illicit trade, but it does form part of a broader strategy to curtail illegal sales – a blight on legitimate business that Yexley said is still causing harm.

“We know it’s a problem in the UK. The scale of the illicit tobacco market in the UK is significant. About 15% of the cigarette market and 28% of hand rolling tobacco is illicit, that’s from HMRC’s own figures,” he said.

  • 2019 20 May

    All cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco manufactured or imported into the UK from 20 May 2019 must use the Track and Trace system, and will require a Unique Identifier Code.

    Retailers will need two ID numbers – an EOID and an FID – to purchase Track and Trace compliant stock.

  • 2020 20 May

    Wholesalers and retailers will be able to continue to sell cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco manufactured before 20 May 2019 up until 20 May 2020 without using the Track and Trace system.

  • 2024 20 May

    From 20 May 2024, Track and Trace will extend to all other products (such as pipe tobacco and cigars).