Exclusive Julian Hunt Wholesalers and independent retailers are reeling at news the government has not entirely ditched its plan to introduce UK duty paid date marked packs for cigarettes. The industry thought the Chancellor had dropped the controversial idea in his last Budget ­ when his new package of anti smuggling measures was hailed as a victory for common sense. But Whitehall insiders say that if the industry and customs cannot agree a workable set of controlled release proposals, then date marked packs will be imposed. Controlled release is the process that would prevent wholesalers from stockpiling cigarettes before the Budget so that they can be sold at a higher price after the annual duty hike is announced. But to ensure this process is in place for the 2001 Budget, the industry will have to agree measures by late summer. And that worries Alan Toft, director general of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, who has led the industry's fight against date marked packs. "We want to avoid the situation we had in the early part of this year when we had very limited opportunity to make our voice heard," he said. "The complex arrangements that are necessary for controlled release will require a much longer period of consultation," said Toft. He said the FWD had "sound evidence" the date marked packs proposal was still in the Chancellor's intray. The trade association was in contact with Customs & Excise on the issue, said Toft, and was urging them to get their proposals out as soon as possible. Toft admitted this week's news had shocked him. He thought the wholesale industry had sucessfully persuaded the Treasury that date marked packs were anti competitive because of the huge extra logistical costs involved. He added: "This would be the death knell for thousands of independent shops. "There is no way cigarettes could be sold in a competitive manner if a sell by date is on them." {{NEWS }}