The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Industry-INTERPOL deal signals challenges to illicit trade protocol

A recent agreement between tobacco industry giants and the world’s largest police organisation, INTERPOL, illustrates Big Tobacco’s zeal to manipulate the recently adopted protocol on illicit tobacco products.

In November 2012, Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) adopted the protocol in order to combat the illegal trade in tobacco. At the heart of the ITP is a ‘tracking and tracing’ system for monitoring tobacco products from production to sales.

In July 2012, INTERPOL announced a new Global Register (IGR4). The organisation said it would focus on products that were threatened by illicit trade, and provide tools to help law enforcement and the public determine a product's authenticity.

At the same time, INTERPOL said it would work with British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG), Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Philip Morris International (PMI) (specifically PMI’s Digital Coding and Tracking Association) to make the tobacco industry's supply chain control system, Codentify, accessible via the IGR4.

This “collaboration” between INTERPOL and the tobacco industry is controversial because in 2011 PMI donated €15 million (US$19.5 million) to INTERPOL, increasing the police organisation’s annual budget by a substantial 8 per cent, notes a paper published recently in Tobacco Journal online.

At the same time that the industry is marketing Codentify, there is overwhelming evidence of its complicity in global cigarette smuggling, adds the paper, ‘The transnational tobacco companies’ strategy to Promote Codentify, their inadequate tracking and tracing standard’.

In an article in the Tobbacco Control Journal it concludes that there is "… very real danger of regulatory capture by the tobacco industry in the area of illicit tobacco."

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