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    Exclusive: Wholesale body demands clear ‘b2b exemption for retailers’ under generational smoking ban

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    A leading wholesalers’ body, representing countries food and drink wholesalers, has called on the government to grant b2b exemption to allow retailers to purchase tobacco from their wholesalers as Tobacco and Vapes Bill aiming to create a “smoke-free generation”, inches closer to becoming law.

    Tobacco and Vapes Bill aims to create a “smoke-free generation” by preventing children born after January 1, 2009 from ever being able to legally buy tobacco. The bill will increase the legal age of sale by one year each year, starting in 2027, until it is illegal for the entire population to buy cigarettes. The bill’s final vote will be held in June. If it becomes law as expected, it would take effect in 2027. 

    The Federation of Wholesaler Distributors (FWD) has however cautioned that there are a number of issues the government must consider and build into policy and enforcement from the start.

    James Bielby, chief executive at FWD, told Asian Trader, “There must be a b2b exemption to allow retailers to purchase tobacco from their wholesalers. There is a precedent for a wholesale exemption on for example display bans and plain packaging – both of which are permitted in wholesale depots.

    “The black market cannot be allowed to step in to supply customers who are too young to buy tobacco legally. Enforcement of the trade in illicit tobacco needs to step up further alongside a change in the legal age to buy tobacco. 

    “Operating a new age-restricted sales and challenge policy for tobacco products alongside the well-established Challenge 25 policy that currently covers all major age-restricted products. When Challenge 25 is no longer relevant to the tobacco category, we need government to promote common policies across the industry, so customers and colleagues aren’t confused by different age limits for different products. 

    Bielby pointed out that refusing underage sales is already a major trigger for abuse and intimidation on the shop floor, this policy cannot be allowed to lead to an increase in those incidents. 

    “Government must lead communications activity, in partnership with industry, to ensure that customers know about these changes and recognise that retailers and colleagues are just doing their job by implementing these changes and asking for proof of age. 

    “When the government prohibits proxy sales of tobacco products within the generational ban, trading standards agencies must lead enforcement activity. Proxy purchasing of age restricted products is extremely difficult for retailers to detect and prevent, as all proxy purchases start with a legal sale. Interventions on any suspected proxy purchases is also likely to be a trigger point for abuse and intimidation for retailers,” he said.

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