Alcohol & tobacco
Restricted Goods

As distributors of tobacco products, FWD members help to ensure that age-restricted goods are sold legally through responsible retailers.

FWD supports measures to prevent the illegal trade in counterfeit and duty-avoided cigarettes, and initiatives that raise awareness of the health harms associated with smoking. We’re working with Imperial Tobacco to encourage retailers and other cash and carry customers to report illicit activity in the tobacco market.

The EU Commission published its draft regulations to establish a ‘track and trace’ system for tobacco. The regulations offer a regulatory framework that would place numerous requirements on wholesalers. FWD has joined with colleagues from 15 trade associations in the European distribution sector to raise concerns with the European Commission on this issue, as well as engaging directly with HMRC in the UK, as well as the EU Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons.

Track and Trace - software issues

Following representations by FWD to HMRC on the issue of non-compliance with track and trace regulations due to software issues, the advice from HMRC is that businesses can continue to trade in such circumstances.




HMRC said:
The high level advice is that in a scenario where there was an EU wide system issue or a system is sue which impacted the UK only or across a limited number of Member States, businesses should continue to take all reasonable steps to comply with the regulations but where it is not possible to comply with the regulations due to issues beyond their control, businesses can continue to trade.

“If a business is having problems with complying with regulations due to issues other than EU wide or individual Member States system issues, they should contact HMRC for advice.”

However a Parliamentary Question tabled on behalf of FWD about the software issues did not go as far as the HRMC response, saying each case would be considered on its own merits.


Alcohol wholesaler registration

HMRC has published its first estimate on the extent of non-duty paid alcohol since the introduction of AWRS in 2017. The report found that duty fraud on beer fell by nearly 30% from £850m in 2016-17 to £600m in 2017-18.

HMRC says the alcohol tax gap has gone down from 9% of its liabilities in 2016-17 to 8% in 2017-2018. This is the lowest since 2011-12. However, the tax gap for spirits doubled from £170m in 2016-17 to £360m in 2017-18. HMRC are no longer publishing an estimate on wine due to the difficulty of modelling the fraud.

On illicit tobacco the Government estimate the tobacco tax gap driven by the illicit market has fallen from £2.4bn in 2016-17 to £1.8bn in 2017-18.

FWD’s release on this can be found here:

MUP Wales

June 3: Following Scotland’s implementation of MUP, and the initial lack of clarification to wholesalers with a premises licence selling to both trade and non-trade customers and how MUP should be applied in this case, the Welsh Government has engaged extensively with FWD over MUP coming into force in Wales.

FWD reached out to the Welsh Government to ensure that clear guidance is provided to wholesalers and FWD has been able to input into the draft guidance for wholesalers. Wholesalers with a premise licence will also be permitted to operate dual pricing when MUP is implemented in Wales.

The law is currently expected to come into force during the summer of 2019.

FWD is monitoring the prospect of MUP in England.


Tobacco track and trace

MAY 10: The track and trace regulations, which came into effect on May 20, require wholesalers to have an Economic Operator Identifier Code (EOIC) for their business Facility Identifier Code (FIC) for each premise that sells or stores tobacco. Apply here

The application for EOIC and FIC(s) is a two-step process. First, create an account to apply for an Economic Operator Identifier Code. Once this code has been received by email (which may take up to two working days) members can then apply for their Facility Identifier Code(s) by logging into the web portal.

The registration process also applies to retailers who must have an EOIC and FIC to purchase from wholesalers cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco with unique identifier codes from May 20. HMRC will be monitoring the number of registrations by the May 20 legislative start date. Non-marked stock can be sold through for 12 months from May 20.

Wholesalers can apply for Economic Operator Identifier Codes and Facility Identifier Codes on behalf of retailers. However, it is the retailer’s responsibility to ensure that they have their identifier codes. For businesses requesting the identifier codes on behalf oforetailers or those with multiple facilities, the identifier codes can be requested by completing a bulk integration template.


Apply for operator and facility codes

April 23: De La Rue has started to accept request of economic identifier codes (EOID) and facility identifier codes (FID) from wholesalers and large retailers with multiple facilities. Here’s the registration portal

Bulk Integration Process

Before you can submit a completed bulk integration template, businesses will need to request their EOID via the De La Rue ID Issuer portal at

Once you have received your EOID,  please submit your completed bulk integration template to De La Rue by emailing by 30 April 2019.

Economic operator ID codes

April 16: HMRC has now confirmed the timeframes for the track and trace ID code application process. Under the regulations, wholesalers are required to have an Economic Operator Identifier Codes and Facility Identifier Codes for each depot/warehouse/DC which stores tobacco. To obtain these identifier codes, wholesalers must apply to the Government-appointed ID issuer, De La Rue. The live pre-registration website will not be active until April 23.

The codes may not be issued until May 10. This is important if members are planning to bulk register retailers as they will be unable to do so until they have been issued their own EOID code.

Bulk registration of retailers

Wholesalers can bulk register customers but there is no requirement for them to do so. FWD’s advice tomembers is that registration of customers is not something wholesalers should be offering.

The liability for registering is the retailer’s and they should therefore take ownership of the process. Ifwholesalers register their customers that customer may not be aware of the requirement to have an EOIDand this could cause problems post May 20 when they attempt to purchase tobacco from either the wholesaler who registered them or another wholesaler, should they not have the information available or even any knowledge of the process. Retailers can only hold one number; should wholesalers register on their behalf there is a high probability they won’t be aware of this and will attempt to register multiple times. There is also a high risk of error if registrations are conducted on behalf of customers.

Secondary repository guide

March 22: The secondary repository provider Dentsu has created a guide for economic operators so that they can access all their technical and integration resources. The site includes the overall roll-out timeline, the list of specifications and data dictionary,  Q&A and a function to contact the support team. You will need to register on the site to access all the information except for the public specifications.

February 28: Ahead of the tobacco track and trace regulations coming into effect on 20 May 2019, HMRC has published a consultation into the draft regulations.

All wholesalers selling tobacco must apply for an economic operator identifier code and a facility identifier code from the ID issuer appointed by the Government.  HMRC have not completed their appointment of the ID Issuer, and therefore there is still no information on when the application process will open or how to apply for a code.

Customer registration

Wholesalers have expressed concerns about whether wholesalers should register their customers as economic operators, as they are able to do under the regulations. Concerns centre around integrity of information both now and an an ongoing basis, the need for retailer responsibility and the resources required to do proxy registrations. It is up to each individual wholesaler to make an assessment as to whether they wish to register their customers.

Cost recovery from manufacturers

Under the regulations wholesalers are entitled to compensation, via SGS, from the tobacco manufacturers for the provision of equipment to be able to carry out track and trace. Manufacturers are required to provide the hardware and software for the recording and transmission of the information for product movement and transactional events to the data storage systems. The regulations do not extend to training cost or cost associated to the additional time required. 

Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol

December 5:  Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol at 50p per unit was introduced in Scotland on May 1. The Scottish Government has published general guidance for ‘reference for sellers of alcohol’ on MUP (

The Scottish Government has published its Alcohol Framework 2018, which sets out its interventions and policies to help reduce associated harms from alcohol. Minimum Unit Pricing is discussed in the report and the Scottish Government says it will review the minimum unit price level of 50 pence per unit following two full years of operation, after 1 May 2020.

  1. The Framework also includes:
  2. A commitment to consult when the Scottish Government update the statutory guidance on the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 to provide clarity for Licensing Boards on implementing the public health objectiveand the overprovision statement. The Framework confirmed that the licensing system will be kept under review “to ensure that it can deliver for public health”.
  3. Proposals to consult on alcohol marketing such as public spaces and online. Under the framework, the UK Government will be pressed to impose a 9 pm watershed for alcohol advertising on TV, and restrictions on advertising in cinemas are also proposed.
  4. Alcohol producers will be urged to put health information on labels and the Scottish Government will be prepared to consider pursuing a mandatory approach in Scotland if the UK Government’s deadline of September 2019 is not met.

August 8: The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on the Minimum Unit Pricing and treatment of wholesalers with a premise licence. Minimum Unit Pricing is a mandatory condition of licence in Scotland which has led to some confusion over how it should apply to wholesalers with a premises licence selling to both trade and non-trade customers.

In the consultation document the Scottish Government states: “There is no intention, and there never has been any intention, by the Scottish Government that Minimum Unit Pricing would apply to trade sales. The policy is that only sales of alcohol which are not trade sales should be subject to the minimum price.” 

This consultation aims to clarify that position in the regulations and to make clear that wholesalers with a premise licence are permitted to operate dual pricing.

FWD welcomes this clarification and will be responding to the consultation, which runs until October 26.

Tobacco Track and Trace

June 7: FWD met HMRC to discuss track and trace requirements on tobacco, which will apply from May 20, 2019. From that date all cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco in the EU market must carry a unique identifier on each unit, aggregated pack, master, pallet and container. The identifier will take the form of a barcode or QR code which will need to be scanned and the information sent to a third party database (appointed by HMRC) when cigarettes/RYO tobacco are dispatched to retail customers.

Although the system goes live in 2019 there will be a 12 month implementation period to allow sell through of non-coded tobacco; however, all coded products will need to be scanned out from May 20, 2019. The security features and scanning process required will be specified by HMRC in the autumn.

Wholesalers will need to apply for an Economic Operator Code, which will be available from January 2019. HMRC guidance will be published in the autumn. No action is required by wholesalers at this point.