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    ‘Most retailers want more regulation on tobacco, vapes’

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    More than a quarter of retailers have seen a rise in customers openly asking for illicit tobacco and vape products, states a recent survey report by JTI, adding that most retailers welcome more regulation around the selling of tobacco and vaping products.

    A quarter of retailers (26 per cent) state that their store has been negatively impacted due to the sale of illicit tobacco and vapes by other businesses in the area, with 30 per cent of retailers aware of one or more stores within a three-mile radius allegedly selling illicit products.

    With two thirds of retailers (67 per cent) also saying that they expect the proposed generational tobacco ban will lead to an increase in illicit tobacco activity, there is concern within the industry that illegal products will become more prevalent, damaging sales for the majority of hard-working retailers.

    Three quarters (76 per cent) of retailers said that in their view the main reason other retailers sold illicit tobacco or vape products was to boost sales, adding that customers appear increasingly tempted to buy these illicit products because they are cheaper than their legal equivalents.

    Over two thirds (72 per cent) of retailers surveyed said they would welcome more regulation around the selling of legal tobacco and vaping products. Stricter penalties and fines, more frequent visits from Trading Standards and strengthening border controls to reduce the supply of illegal products into the UK were the most-common responses from retailers in terms of support needed to help tackle the issue of illicit tobacco.

    JTI is calling for stronger collaboration between the government and the tobacco industry to prevent the sales of illicit tobacco and vapes.

    Sarah Connor, Director of Communications at JTI UK, comments, “The sale of illicit tobacco and vapes continues to be a major thorn in the side of legitimate retailers across the UK, taking away thousands of pounds in revenue. 

    “In the UK, the illegal tobacco trade is already thriving with 11 per cent of cigarettes and 35 per cent rolling tobacco being smuggled into the UK in 2021/22 according to HMRC. There is a real risk that the government’s proposed generation ban could exacerbate this, handing money to serious and organised crime groups that manufacture and sell illegal tobacco and vapes. The prohibition of legal products always has dangerous side effects and opens the door to criminal gangs to sell illegal products, as we saw in South Africa in 2020 following a temporary ban on tobacco products. 

    “There is currently a real concern amongst retailers around the policing of illicit trade, and with the proposed generation ban this fear is growing. In fact, 66 per cent told us that they don’t believe the Government has the required funding or resources to enforce the legislation and New Zealand, the only country in the world to introduce legislation for a Generational Ban, has chosen to repeal it. 

    “Retailers can play a vital role in combatting the illicit trade. We’re working closely with our retail partners to ensure that they are knowledgeable and confident in communicating the dangers of illegal products to their customers.”

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