“Track and Trace” for cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco products

Published on 20 January 2020

Changes to the sale of cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco come into force in May 2020.

What is happening?

The introduction of the Tobacco Products (Traceability and Security Features) Regulations 2019 means that from 20 May 2020 retailers selling cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco will only be permitted to sell these products if they are “Track and Trace” compliant as per the changes in the regulations.  

In order to satisfy the above, all packets of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco manufactured or imported in the UK (except for stock manufactured or imported before 20 May 2019) must:
  • have unique identifiers (UIDs) on the packaging
  • have five specific security features applied to the packaging
  • be scanned at certain points in the supply chain.
Retailers can continue to sell tobacco products without security features or UIDs up until 20 May 2020 only if they were manufactured in, or imported into the UK before 20 May 2019.

Why does it matter?

The regulations are part of the EU Revised Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) which is now UK law. 

Ultimately, the intention of the regulations is to protect public health by reducing the supply of cheap or illegal tobacco products. They aim to achieve this through tracking legitimate tobacco products through the supply chain and limiting the ability to buy legitimate tobacco to businesses who have registered for the following codes. 

In order to purchase cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco with unique identifier codes, retailers must have:
  • an Economic Operator Identifier Code (EOIC) (for their business), and
  • a Facility Identifier Code (FIC) (for each store they sell tobacco from and for each premises which stores tobacco).

Retailers should be conscious that time is running out to sell their non-compliant stock, as failure to sell all remaining stock by 20 May 2020 will leave surplus stock that cannot be sold. 

From a compliance perspective, failure to comply with the regulations three times within a 12 month period could result in the deactivation of an EOIC, preventing the affected retailer from purchasing and making further tobacco sales.

Importantly, any products that are found to not have UIDs will be liable to forfeiture and seizure by HMRC, which would prove costly for both large and smaller retailers alike.

What action should you take?

1. If you have not already done so, you must register for an EOIC and FIC immediately, as existing retailers should have registered by 20th May 2019. Failure to register will prevent you from purchasing products that are Track and Trace compliant from tobacco suppliers.

2. Review your current stock and establish whether you have any remaining stock that does not comply with the regulations. If so, it is strongly advised that you market and sell these products before products with unique identifier codes, and relevant security features, as it will be illegal to sell them after 20 May 2020.

If you would like any assistance, please contact Paul Joseph or your usual RPC contact.


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