New international protocol adopted to combat illicit trade in tobacco products

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A milestone for public health

Seoul - Republic of Korea. Delegates of more than 140 Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) adopted a new international treaty Monday on 12 November, setting the rules for combating illegal trade through control of the supply chain and international cooperation. The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products commits countries to establishing, as a central measure, a global tracking and tracing system to reduce the illicit trade of tobacco products.

“The elimination of all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, including smuggling and illegal manufacturing, is an essential component of tobacco control,” said Ambassador Ricardo Varela, President of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO FCTC. “In adopting this new Protocol today by consensus, countries have reiterated their historic commitment towards protecting the health of their citizens, particularly the young and vulnerable.”

Hours before COP closed on Saturday, Parties agreed to set up a working group that will look into ways to better access the technical assistance and financial resources that many Parties need to put the FCTC’s measures into practice. Despite growing international recognition that tobacco use is a major impediment to global health and development, implementation of the Convention has been slow in many countries, especially low- and mid-income ones. Saturday’s decision can reverse this trend and help governments in their efforts to implement the live-saving policies included in the FCTC.

Decisions taken at this week’s COP, which meets every two years, are taken by consensus by Parties to the FCTC, a legally binding treaty. The ITP will come into force after adoption by 40 Parties to the FCTC, while Parties are expected to apply the guiding principles and recommendations on tobacco taxation, as they do existing guidelines, when developing their tobacco control policies.

Despite strict rules in the FCTC that severely limit tobacco industry participation in such policy- making, FCA noted numerous cases at COP5 of industry representatives attempting to sway delegations or their governments. Some delegations even included individuals with ties to the industry. 

This is a reminder, as WHO Director-General noted at the opening of COP5, that the tobacco industry will stop at nothing in its attempts to peddle its products and hook new generations of customers to replace the victims of tobacco use. 

The COP is the central organ and governing body of the Convention and met for the fifth time since the treaty entered into force in 2005. The number of Parties to the Convention has grown steadily over the years, from the 40 parties that brought the treaty into force in 2005, to 113 at the first session of the Conference of the Parties in 2006, and 176 as of today.

The WHO FCTC was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. It has since become one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations history.

For more information, please read the full story or consult the bulletins, attached here below:

FCA Bulletin Day 2

FCA Bulletin Day 3

FCA Bulletin Day 4

FCA Bulletin Day 5

Closing Press Release - EN

Closing Press Release - FR

Closing Press Release - ES

Image: © WHO