The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on HM Revenue and Customs to impose stricter sanctions on retailers who are found to be selling illicit tobacco.

Responding to the government’s consultation on sanctions to tackle illegal tobacco, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The illicit tobacco market costs the Treasury over £2bn a year. Retailers who sell illicit tobacco have a direct impact on retailers selling legitimate products who, as a result, may be losing out on revenue and custom. We therefore support more stringent sanctions for retailers who are found to be selling illegal, non-duty paid tobacco.”

In its submission, ACS supports lowering the evidence threshold of the illicit tobacco culpability assessment. This would result in all retailers who are found to be knowingly selling illicit tobacco being sanctioned.

In addition, ACS has criticised the consultation’s recommendation of introducing ‘on-the-spot’ fines for offenders. ACS says that although this will provide a quick and convenient punishment tool for enforcement agencies, it won’t prevent repeat offences and would be a missed opportunity to investigate retailers who may be involved in other offences, including participating in alcohol duty fraud and alcohol licence breaches.