Track & Trace is Coming to the EU

Track & Trace is Coming to the EU
Date: May 2024
Author: Inspector X

In just a few days’ time, a huge change will come to the European Community when it comes to cigars. On May 19th, TRACK & TRACE will be mandatory for every tobacco product entering the EU. Each box of cigars, each pouch or tin of pipe tobacco will get an extra label with a tobacco identifier and a QR code.

It all started in 2014 when the EU introduced the TPD2 (Tobacco Products Directive, going in effect in 2016. TPD2 mentioned TRACK & TRACE, which was implemented for cigarettes in 2019 and for all tobacco products in a few days. Even though TRACK & TRACE is mentioned in EU legislation, the idea came from the industry itself, from big tobacco. For big tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris, this kind of technology is relatively easy to implement due to their industrial capacity, while cigar manufacturers operate on a much smaller scale and due to the scale, they are forced to do this manually, increasing overhead and operational cost.

How does it work?

Each box, tin, pouch or pack has a unique ID code. That ID code links to a database that stores all data. Data such as who made the product, when was it shipped to the EU, who imported it, who paid the tax and it goes down to which retailer bought the product to resell. As you can imagine, this has an incredible impact on the supply chain. Before TRACK & TRACE a manufacturer could just any box out of his warehouse and ship them to any distributor in the EU. The distributor could sell that to any retailer. Now each box has to be labelled with the TRACK & TRACE label and all the information has to be uploaded to the database. The distributor also needs to upload the correct data to the database, so that legislator can track which retailer eventually got the box.

But it doesn’t stop just there. Only a few IT companies are equipped and qualified to collect the data for TRACK & TRACE and enter the data into the databases.

As you can see, it takes a lot of time, effort and brings extra costs to the cigar manufacturers and importers/distributors. Even the biggest cigar brand is small fish compared to the major cigarette companies such as Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. Yet this form of legislation hits the smaller players harder than those big guys, even though it’s the products of these big producers that are the cause of all tobacco legislation. TRACK & TRACE is another example of governments overreaching and of big tobacco supporting legislation to kill competition.

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