ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has responded to the Government’s consultation on the introduction of a tobacco licensing scheme for England, calling on them to scrap the scheme in favour of targeted measures to reduce the illicit tobacco trade.
In the submission, ACS has called for trading standards officers to have more powers to tackle the illicit trade at a local level. Research conducted by the Trading Standards Institute has shown that while almost all trading standards officers’ work includes tackling the illicit tobacco trade, the most common action taken against those selling illicit tobacco was giving verbal or written warnings rather than the fines and banning orders that can be used as penalties.
The illicit tobacco trade cost the Exchequer £2.1bn in 2013/14 alone in lost revenue. For the alcohol market, where a licensing scheme has been in place for several years, the loss to the Exchequer through the illicit trade has grown from £830m in 2008/9 to £1.2bn in 2013/14.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We do not believe that tobacco licensing is an effective deterrent to the illicit trade and instead serves only to impose financial and administrative burdens on retailers. We are calling for trading standards officers to be given more powers to deal with those who supply and sell illicit tobacco at a local level. Current sanctioning powers are too focused on seizures at our borders and do not address the problems that responsible retailers face from unscrupulous competitors in communities across the country.”
In Scotland, where a tobacco licensing scheme has been in place for three years, the ACS said only five retailers have been removed from the register. The scheme is estimated to have cost around £450,000 to set up, equating to around £89,900 for every retailer removed from the register.
ACS full submission is available here.