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Selling Cigarettes

  /    /  Selling Cigarettes


Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a Premises Licence, or any other type of Licence, to sell tobacco.  The reason for the confusion probably arises because Premises often lose the Premises Licence when they are caught selling or stocking dodgy cigarettes.  (Dodgy for these purposes means counterfeit or non-duty paid).  But in reality, although these operators may have been caught with dodgy cigarettes, the removal of their Premises Licence only stops them from selling alcohol!

If you sell tobacco in your pub or shop, there a number of regulations that you need to comply with. This guide details your requirements under the Tobacco Display Ban regulations, the UK Standardised Packaging Regulations and the EU Revised Tobacco Products Directive.

Tobacco Display Ban:

The law on the display of all products containing tobacco and the display of tobacco prices changed in April 2015 for small stores.  It is now illegal to display tobacco products in shops and businesses in England, except to people over the age of 18 in the limited circumstances set out in the law.  These rules came into force for larger stores in 2012.

It is now illegal to display tobacco products in the relevant shops and businesses in England and Wales, except to people over the age of 18 years in the limited circumstances set out in the new law.  For example, the doors on the cabinet must remain permanently closed when not opened to remove a packet for sale.  Similarly, staff are not permitted to open the cabinet to display the contents to a prospective purchaser, only to remove a specific product once requested by the purchaser.  The ability to choose from what’s available in stock has therefore been curtailed.

Standardised Packaging:

On 20 May 2016, the European Union Revised Tobacco Products Directive and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Regulations 2015 came into effect.  These regulations have been widely utilised in the ongoing battle against the counterfeit cigarette trade.  Reasons for seizures include the wrong packaging, or the health warning being in another language than English.  These regulations:

  • Require all tobacco packaging to be a standard dull brown colour with a matt finish.
  • Permit only specified text (such as the brand and variant name) in Helvetica plain font.
  • Ban the sale of price marked packs.
  • Allow required markings such as health warnings and fiscal marks to remain on packaging.

Track and Trace

This is another significant measure introduced to counter the counterfeit cigarette trade.  It involves retailers applying for specific authorisations to deal in cigarette transactions – namely through their newly issued personal Economic Operator Identifier Code (EOIC) and their shop’s Facility Identifier Code (FIC) – used to track & trace cigarettes in the UK.

The tobacco ‘track and trace’ regulations are part of the EU Regulations. The UK Government are in the process of introducing the ‘track and trace’ provisions of the Directive into UK law. These regulations came into effect on 20th May 2019.

  • If the UK leave the EU with a deal, the current UK and EU track and trace legislation will still apply and access to the EU Secondary Repository to record and upload the movement of tobacco products will be retained.
  • If the UK leave the EU with no deal, the government will suspend the current track and trace system as the UK will lose its access to the Secondary Repository and businesses would be unable to record and upload the movement of tobacco products. The government would work towards developing a standalone UK track and trace scheme to be implemented as quickly as possible.

Menthol Ban:

Again, the European Union Revised Tobacco Products Directive makes it an offence for manufacturers to produce menthol cigarettes and retailers to sell menthol cigarettes from 20th May 2020.

The ban also applies to capsule, click on, click & roll, crush-ball or dual menthol cigarettes. Oddly, this ban does not apply to heated tobacco products or e-cigarette products.

There is no sell through period which means that retailers must have sold through any remaining stock of menthol cigarettes by 20th May 2020.

Counterfeit and Non-Duty Paid Tobacco Operations:

The most common reason for Convenience Stores with Off-Licences actually losing those Premises Licences is through being caught dealing in ‘dodgy’ cigarettes.

The Statutory Guidance is clear that being caught dealing in ‘dodgy’ cigarettes will always be treated as extremely serious, even on the first occasion, as this trade has very clear links to organised crime.

If you are caught selling ‘dodgy’ cigarettes, you will almost certainly lose your Premises Licence at the forthcoming Licensed Premises Review.

☝️ Remember:  The Licensing Guys’ message is clear and unambiguous:  Do NOT deal in ‘dodgy’ cigarettes.

Not your Fags?  Better Call Paul!

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