Deal on illicit tobacco maintains barrier between tobacco industry and global public health

GENEVA, April 4 – A deal agreed Wednesday to fight the global trade in illicit tobacco maintains the

essential barrier between public health and the tobacco industry, and paves the way for

governments to ratchet up the fight against the tobacco epidemic by raising taxes.

The agreement on a Protocol on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, made in Geneva by the 174

Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), was finalised after four years

of talks, and is expected to be adopted at the Conference of the Parties to the FCTC in November.

“We congratulate the Parties, the Chair of the negotiating session and the Framework Convention

Secretariat for all the hard work that went into this Protocol. It is particularly appropriate that this

deal comes in the same year as Parties will also be considering guidelines on tax and price

measures,” said Paula Johns, Chair of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), a global civil society

alliance that has participated in ITP talks from the first meeting in February 2008.

She added, “The illicit trade in tobacco feeds the worldwide tobacco epidemic by flooding markets

with cheap products.”

Illicit trade in cigarettes costs governments $40.5 billion in lost revenue yearly, with losses falling

disproportionately on low and middle-income countries. It also undermines attempts to reduce

tobacco consumption through price increases – which has proven to be the most effective measure

to curb tobacco use. The trade also fuels organised crime and terrorism.

The tobacco industry, which in the past has been complicit in the illicit tobacco trade, has been

working relentlessly to insert itself into the fight against the trade, by signing deals with

governments to train their Customs officials, for example. Such agreements open the door to

industry interference with public health policy, a violation of FCTC Article 5.3 and its Guidelines.

“We were encouraged during these final negotiations to see numerous Parties insist that public

health interests take precedence over those of the tobacco industry,” added Johns. “For instance,

they rejected strong pressure to include wording that would have supported the industry’s

intellectual property claims; rightly so – that is not the role of an international public health

agreement.”

Parties also roundly rebuffed language that would have subjected international legal obligations

between countries to private agreements made by states with non-state actors – in this case, the

tobacco industry.

The Parties unanimously adopted a new obligation of “maximum possible transparency” in their

interactions with the tobacco industry, which civil society organisations around the world will be

vigilant in helping them fulfill.

 

IF LEFT UNCHECKED, TOBACCO USE WILL KILL 8 MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR BY 2030, 70% OF THEM IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES. FCA IS

WORKING TO CHANGE THIS. WE ARE MORE THAN 350 ORGANISATIONS FROM OVER 100 COUNTRIES THAT SUPPORT THE GLOBAL

TOBACCO CONTROL TREATY, THE FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL (FCTC). SEE HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR

WORK AT WWW.FCTC.ORG.

 

Agreement on the protocol will be only the first of many steps required to curb illicit trade. ‘Tracking

and tracing’ tobacco products is central to the ITP, and it is essential that FCTC Parties begin planning

capacity building and technical assistance for low-resourced countries on this topic as quickly as

possible.

Assistance could involve establishing an expert group to look at the areas in which capacity building

and technical assistance are likely to be necessary and how they can best be provided. This could

include looking at options for which international organisations might be best placed to provide

which type of technical assistance.

Tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century. Its toll in this century is expected to hit 1

billion people, unless current trends change.

Since coming into force in 2005, the FCTC has become one of the most ratified international

conventions. It now has 174 Parties, representing 87.4 percent of the world’s population.

 

For more information contact FCA Policy Director Francis Thompson, in Geneva – Tel:

+41.0.798.540.841 or FCA Communications Manager Marty Logan – Tel: +41.0.789.723.441,

loganm@fctc.org, Skype: loganjourno.

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