Customs & Excise will forge ahead with compulsory Duty Paid stamping of all tobacco products and drop controversial plans for a cigarette sell-by date, as predicted in The Grocer (February 19). The mark, part of a £209m anti-smuggling package unveiled by C&E this week, will indicate whether products are legitimate or smuggled. It is already used in Europe as a method of keeping tabs on the number of cigarettes in circulation. The sell by date, designed to stop forestalling ­ stock-piling cigarettes before the Budget to be sold at a higher margin afterwards ­ was universally opposed by manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Federation of Wholesale Distributors director general Alan Toft said date coding would add a further 15p per packet to brands sold through independent retailers. This would be on top of the 25p per pack rise in duty. Toft said the controlled release of cigarettes into the market would prevent stockpiling and warned that manufacturers should work to ensure there was no major impact on wholesalers and retailers in pricing or disruption to the supply chain. Duty stamping will come into force in April 2001. Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo also announced a crackdown on smuggling, with plans to recruit 1,000 new Customs staff. Specialist investigators and mobile vehicle scanners have also been employed in a bid to crush smuggling within three years. She told smugglers: "We will seize your smuggled goods and vehicles and we will punish you with the most severe penalties." Industry bodies welcomed the investment, but said the only way to tackle bootlegging would be to lower duty. The Association of Convenience Stores said this year's price increase of 25p dealt a blow to independent retailers and helped black market sales. Wholesale Confectionery and Tobacco Alliance chief executive John Bowden said: "The only solution is a cut in the punitive levels of excise duty to Continental levels." But Primarolo said raising prices was part of a strategy to cut smoking in the UK. {{NEWS }}