Prevention of illicit trade

One of the Tobacco Products Directive’s goals is the prevention of illegal tobacco trading. To achieve this goal, a traceability system has been established and security features have been added to products to ensure authenticity. With these methods, it is possible to limit the availability of illegal tobacco products and influence the ubiquity of smoking. The prevention of illegal tobacco trading is therefore important for public health, the national economy, and the equality of business operators.

The tracing system requires that all operators in the tobacco product supply and sales chain acquire the identifier codes required to record the movements of tobacco products.

This system also requires the marking of every tobacco retail package with a unique identifier. And, to verify authenticity, every tobacco retail package must be marked with a security feature.
Valvira and the municipalities monitor the compliance of tobacco retail packages. The Police, Customs and other authorities also monitor illegal trade.

The markings to prevent illegal trading on retail packaging have been required for cigarettes and loose tobacco from 20 May 2019. This requirement will be extended to other tobacco products on 20 May 2024.

Traceability

The traceability system exists to prevent the illegal trade of tobacco products by enabling, among other things, product tracking from manufacturing to the first point of retail. In practice, traceability is implemented in two ways. Retail packages must be marked with a unique identifier, and tobacco product sellers must keep records on the movement of the products. Tobacco product manufacturers and importers can acquire the unique identifiers for the Finnish market from the issuer appointed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM), and then add the unique identifier to the tobacco product’s retail package. Additional information on applying for the identifiers is available on the issuer’s website.

In the first stage, a unique identifier is required for cigarettes and loose tobacco retail packages from 20 May 2019. In the second stage, from 20 May 2024, a unique identifier is required on all tobacco products’ retail packages. This means that all products that include the tobacco plant as an ingredient must be marked with a unique identifier. Before said date, tobacco products manufactured in or imported to the EU without a unique identifier may be traded freely until 20 May 2026. Thereafter, tobacco products without a unique identifier on their retail packaging may no longer be sold on the market.

Tobacco product movements must be recorded through the supply chain, from manufacturing to retail sales. The records must indicate, among other things, transportation events regarding the products (such as shipping of tobacco products from a facility) and transaction events (such as sending invoices and receiving payments). The industry must provide the devices required for product tracking records to participants in the tobacco product trade. In practice, this duty for record-keeping requires that every economic operator that participates in the tobacco product supply chain must apply for identifier codes that are used to identify every operator and location. These codes can effectively identify every buyer and the tobacco products’ actual transportation route from the manufacturing facility to the first place of sale. A wholesaler may only sell cigarettes and loose tobacco (and from 20 May 2024, other tobacco products) to an operator that has the required identifier codes.

An operator must immediately notify the issuer of identifiers of terminating their operations as well as of possible changes to the information provided. Notifications can be made to the issuer through their provided interface. Requesting and receiving identifier codes is free of charge.

Safety feature

Retail packages of tobacco products in the EU market must include a safety feature, which consists of both visible and invisible factors. The safety feature markings help both consumers and the authorities to determine whether the product on sale is an authentic or illegal tobacco product. 

The safety feature marking must be added either by attaching or print, or by a combination thereof, to the package so that it is impossible to replace, reuse, or alter it in any way. Placement of the safety feature on a retail package may not hinder the visibility of the health warning label. Neither may it be covered by price markings or similar labels. The Ministry for Social Affairs and Health (STM) has issued a regulation on the traceability and safety features of retail tobacco product packages (290/2019), which lays out the placement and marking of the safety features on a package, among other things.

In the first stage, safety features are required on cigarettes and loose tobacco retail packages from 20 May 2019. In the second stage, from 20 May 2024, the safety features are required on all products’ retail packages. Before said date, tobacco products manufactured in or imported to the EU without the safety features may be traded freely until 20 May 2026. Thereafter, tobacco products without safety features on their retail packaging may no longer be sold on the market.

Frequently asked questions: traceability