The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has demanded government clarification on whether cash & carries will be made to comply with the proposed tobacco display ban.

Under the terms of the current draft display ban, wholesalers are exempt when they sell packets of 200 cigarettes and 250g packs of rolling tobacco because they are classed as 'bulk retailers'.

But smaller pack sizes, such as 100 cigarettes or smaller pouches of tobacco, which are sold by many wholesalers, are not covered by the exemption.

FWD chief executive James Bielby claimed the rules as they stood would be a "nightmare" for wholesalers. "If they sell in smaller quantities, which they do, they would in effect be retailers, liable to the full extent of the ban," he said.

This week, Bielby wrote to Andrew Black, the tobacco programme manager at the Department of Health, to outline his concerns and request clarification.

"Some of our members sell in units of 100 and some RYO is sold in units of under 250g," he said in the letter, shown exclusively to The Grocer. "In doing so, is there a danger they will no longer be defined as 'bulk retailers' and will be treated by the regulations as a large shop, subject to the full provisions of the display regulations as they will apply, for example, to supermarkets in 2011?"

The FWD and other industry bodies oppose the ban because they say it will cause unnecessary expense to retailers and increase smuggled and counterfeit tobacco. Evidence from the Republic of Ireland shows that legitimate sales are down 5% since a ban was brought in on 1 July.

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