04 Dec 2007
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY Representatives from 35 countries are gathering in Montevideo, Uruguay on December 5, 2007 to work on knowledge-gathering and skill-sharing on the illicit trade of tobacco a global crime that contributes to higher rates of tobacco-related disease and death, helps finance criminal and terrorist groups, and robs governments of $US billions in revenue.
The December meeting of American Region delegates is a working conference to prepare for the upcoming meeting in Geneva in February 2008 when representatives of 151 countries will begin negotiations on the international protocol aimed at eliminating international public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organization.
"The illicit trade protocol will supplement the FCTC by building on the general provisions included in the Convention, facilitating international cooperation, and providing specific provisions countries must implement if they are serious about reducing tobacco trafficking" said Laurent Huber, Director of the Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Control.
The Framework Convention Alliance, an international alliance of hundreds of non-governmental organizations created to support the development, ratification and implementation of the FCTC, is urging governments to include the following provisions in the illicit trade protocol:
- An international tracking and tracing system of tobacco products;
- Anti-money laundering measures;
- Markings and codes on packs, cartons and master cases;
- A system of record keeping for all imports and exports of tobacco products;
- Obligations for tobacco manufacturers to control their supply chain with penalties for those that fail to do so;
- The criminalization of participation in illicit trade in various forms;
- Increased international cooperation in the sharing of information and prosecution of offences.
"Tobacco counterfeiting, and illicit manufacture of tobacco products are a transnational problem that will require international participation in a comprehensive system. The countries taking part in developing this historic illicit trade protocol have a lot at stake – and a lot to gain" said Dr. Eduardo Bianco, an international tobacco control policy expert and spokesperson for the Framework Convention Alliance.
In 2005, it was estimated that the market share of illicit trade across Latin America was as high as 20 percent of total sales or the equivalent of 295 billion cigarettes . Smuggled, counterfeit, and illicitly manufactured cigarettes are sold more cheaply than legal products, lowering average prices, boosting consumption particularly among children and poorer populations and contributing to higher consumption and higher rates of smoking-related disease and death.
Illicit tobacco trade deprives governments of an estimated $US 40 50 billion in revenue that is an increasingly important funding source for tobacco control and other public health programs .
Tobacco currently contributes to the deaths of an estimated five million people each year worldwide. And the death toll is rising: the World Health Organization projects the annual number of deaths from tobacco will almost double by 2025 if current rates continue. 
In addition to the public health and economic consequences, illicit tobacco trade poses a significant security threat. There is evidence that illicit trade in tobacco products is carried out by transnational criminal groups and that the money gained from illicit tobacco trade is used to fund other serious criminal enterprises, including terrorist operations. 
"The American nations working together in Uruguay this week are taking an important step in protecting their people from the dire consequences illicit tobacco trade has on their countries’ public health, national security and economic stability" said Dr. Bianco.
The Framework Convention Alliance is made up of almost 300 organizations representing over 100
countries around the world. It was created to support the development, ratification, and implementation of
the WHO FCTC.
For more information, please contact:
Susan Cavanagh, FCA Communications Manager +61416361759
Dr Eduardo Bianco +598 94416559 (Spanish, English)
Laurent Huber, +1 202 352 3284 (Spanish, English and French)
Download media release: Nations from the Region of the Americas Collaborate to Save Lives and Reduce Economic Losses by Cracking Down on Illicit Tobacco Trade [Adobe Acrobat PDF – 91.79 KB]
1 Framework Convention Alliance, How big was the global illicit trade problem in 2006? (2007) 5
3 World Health Organization, Building Blocks for Tobacco Control: A Handbook (2004) 6.
4 U.S. General Accounting Office, Terrorist Financing: U.S. Agencies Should Systematically Assess Terrorists’ Use of Alternative Financing Mechanisms, Report to Congressional Requesters GAO-04-163 (November 2003) 11-12, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04163.pdf; Center for Public Integrity, Tobacco Companies Linked to Criminal Organizations in Lucrative Cigarette Smuggling (March 2001),http://www.publicintegrity.org/report.aspx?aid=351.