The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Agreement on illicit trade protocol protects public health

Opening plenary 290312 TihOpening discussions at INB5 on 29 March.Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on Wednesday agreed on a draft protocol to fight the global trade in illicit tobacco. 

The agreement 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 was finalised in Geneva after four years of talks, and is expected to be adopted at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 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 FCA Chair Paula Johns.

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."

Read the full media release:

See the agreed draft text in all UN languages.

Visit the Illicit Trade Campaign page on the FCA website.

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