The Petrol Retailers Association has welcomed a consultation by the government on tackling illicit tobacco and has submitted a response calling for tighter regulations.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson commented: “Tobacco duty evasion impacts the reputation of legitimate retailers and reduces revenue as consumers, unaware of the criminal implications of purchasing illicit tobacco, turn to an unregulated alternative.”

In its submission, the PRA proposed four key changes:

  • withdrawal of the track and trace operator ID from those retailers who are found with products that do not comply with the track and trace requirements;
  • extending the ability to enforce selected track and trace sanctions to trading standards;
  • a new penalty of up to £10,000 for holding or possessing products that do not comply with the track and trace requirements;
  • power to seize any track and trace compliant tobacco products where they are found alongside a product that does not comply with the track and trace requirements.

Madderson said: “It is a no-brainer to clamp down on the sale of illicit tobacco, which, according to HMRC figures, has cost the Treasury over £45.2bn in lost revenue since the turn of the century.

“To contextualise the enormity of this figure, it is approximately the same that the UK government has spent on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) scheme to date.

“At a time where the public finances can ill afford to miss out on revenue raising opportunities, it is imperative that they introduce tougher measures to prevent the trade of illegal tobacco.”