The EU’s track and trace system for tobacco products

The EU’s track and trace system has been in the pipeline for several years. And despite concerns that there could be major issues and delays implementing it, the Commission has confirmed that it will be fully functional in the next year.

The Commission said in an earlier statement that the new system is essential in preventing smoking-related illnesses in Europe, and in reducing illicit tobacco trade, which is responsible for an estimated €11.1 billion a year in tax losses.

It’s also been identified as a source of revenue for crime gangs, who sell illegal cigarettes to the public, potentially putting them at risk. These products are considerably cheaper than legal products, but carry risks as they are less likely to comply with the manufacturing regulations.

And as the EU focuses on preventing chronic illnesses, regulating the tobacco industry is key in encouraging healthier lifestyles, as a large percentage of these illnesses are caused by lifestyle choices, including smoking.

The Commission believes that the new system will help to regulate the tobacco industry. However, it’s had many critics, many of whom have pointed out that there are shortcoming within the system, and these could lead to delays and disruption within the industry.

For example, in order for the system to work, all member states need to be compliant, otherwise, it will become very difficult to move products from one country to another.

In addition, the TPD says that member states need to appoint “ID issuers” to be responsible for issuing unique identifier codes that be used on the packaging. They also need to ensure that the issuer remains completely independent from the tobacco industry itself.

Although the EU says that progress has been made in these areas, not all member states are prepared for the legislation. This is having a negative impact on the scheduling of the process being implemented.

In a statement, an EU official commented: “The current state of play suggests that even if the initial absence of one or more ID issuers occurs, this situation will be short-lived. If needed, the Authorisation Decision will permit for the full launch of the system in the upstream part of the tobacco supply chain from day one.”

“Even in such an unwelcome scenario, the EU traceability system will allow for the immediate controls against a substantial number of fraud archetypes, for example, false exports.”

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