Carrier Bag Charge

Pharmacy Exemption
Contractors will have received an information booklet publishing the proposed carrier bag levy scheduled to be introduced in October this year. Unfortunately, in the section headed “Types of Bags”, it states that the charge will apply to all types of singe use bags but fails to mention that it will apply to bags only above a certain size. It also gives examples of exemptions to the charge but fails to mentions prescriptions and other medicines.
Prescriptions and other medicines will be exempt and the full text of the pharmacy exemption as it appears on the Welsh Assembly Government website is set out below for your information. For further information visit 
Prescriptions and other medicines
Bags which are supplied by a pharmacist or in a pharmacy to carry free prescriptions or other items which are supplied free on the NHS are not included in the charge. This would include free smoking cessation products supplied by an NHS stop smoking clinic or therapy devices provided free in a specialist NHS occupational therapy clinic.
There are two specific exemptions in the single use carrier bag charge in relation to medicines etc. These are:
  • Any item sold in accordance with a prescription – this would usually be for a private prescription.
  • Pharmacy medicines – any item which can only be sold by a qualified pharmacist or with their supervision.
What are pharmacy medicines?
Only pharmacies may sell pharmacy medicines and a pharmacist must make or supervise the sale.
Pharmacists will ask if a patient has any medical conditions or takes any other medicines, to check that it’s safe to take the medicine. For example, some nasal decongestant medicines can raise blood pressure, so patients would be asked if they have high blood pressure before being sold the medicine. It is these types of medicines that are sold ‘over the counter’ that can be provided with a bag for free.
Should pharmacies be exempt?
It has not been our policy intention to exempt any particular sector. The reason for this is to ensure fairness.
Pharmacies sell a wide range of products as well as medicines and to ensure fair competition, pharmacies are not exempt from these Regulations. For example, a customer could go to a pharmacy and buy a packet of paracetamol, a hair brush and a box of plasters but a customer could also go to a supermarket, convenience store or general store and purchase the same items. It would not be fair for the customer to receive a free bag in a pharmacy and not in the other stores.
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