WHO brokers deal to stamp out tobacco smuggling

GENEVA Wed Apr 4, 2012 8:29pm IST

A cigarette stained with lipstick is seen left on the ground in Shanghai, March 22, 2012. REUTERS/Aly Song

A cigarette stained with lipstick is seen left on the ground in Shanghai, March 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

Related Topics



GENEVA (Reuters) - Health officials on Wednesday provisionally agreed a global deal to combat tobacco smuggling, a trade the World Health Organisation said makes harmful smoking too cheap and robs finance ministries of up to $50 billion a year.

The agreement will require manufacturers to be licensed and tobacco packaging to bear markings so that any goods seized on illegal markets can be traced back through the supply chain, including the companies that shipped them, to see where they were diverted.

Tobacco products sold in duty-free shops and over the Internet are covered by the accord, which obliges authorities to provide legal assistance to other countries investigating illicit but highly lucrative trade channels, WHO officials said.

Formally a protocol to the 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the world's first public health pact, the new agreement was reached after nearly five years of negotiations, including a fifth and final round this past week.

"The primary objective of the protocol is to protect public health from this deadly trade," the U.S.-based advocacy group Corporate Accountability International said in a statement issued at the conclusion of the closed-door talks.

Tarik Jasarevic, WHO spokesman, told Reuters: "The text has been agreed by consensus."

Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people a year from cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and other illnesses, according to the United Nations agency.

The text, hammered out by 800 officials from 135 countries, is likely to be adopted at a WHO meeting in Seoul this November. It then needs ratification by 40 countries to enter into force, a process expected to take two years.

"It will be mandatory, an international requirement for all cigarette packages, every single package will have that mandatory mark," Dr. Haik Nikogosian, who heads the tobacco treaty's secretariat at the WHO, told a news briefing last week.

Nikogosian said in total, government exchequers lost $40 billion to $50 billion a year to smuggling in lost duty and unpaid taxes.

"If you bring even half of that back to the governments by enforcing a strong protocol, imagine what the effect is for governments, particularly for the developing countries," he said.

Several countries in which major tobacco companies are based, including the United States and Switzerland, will not be subject to the smuggling clampdown as they never ratified the original treaty, although they do have their own measures.

"For nearly five years, Big Tobacco has fought tooth and nail throughout these negotiations in an effort to undermine progress, thwart public health policy and police itself with regards to illicit trade," said John Stewart of Corporate Accountability International.

"But the text of the final Protocol reflects delegates' resolve ... to stand together for public health and against Big Tobacco," he said.

Tobacco giants Philip Morris International (PM.N) and British American Tobacco (BATS.L) have previously said they would back a protocol with effective measures against illicit trade.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
romeowhiskey wrote:
Combats smuggling is the lead in the story.
The BOTTOM LINE is the $50B in lost revenues.

Blah…blah…blah about saving lives…it’s really about saving revenues.

If countries were really trying to save lives…they’d ban the sale of all tobacco products.

Governments AROUND THE WORLD are ADDICTED to the tobacco tax revenues…so let’s not try to hide it behind some cockamamie headline that says…”we’re trying to save lives!”

Apr 04, 2012 11:47pm IST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ebola Outbreak


Siege Of Kobani

Siege Of Kobani

Air strikes hit Kobani as Kurdish peshmerga prepare to enter  Full Article 

Unrest in Burkina Faso

Unrest in Burkina Faso

Army chief takes power after Burkina president bows to protests  Full Article 

Sri Lankan Landslide

Sri Lankan Landslide

Rains slow Sri Lankan landslide search; nearly 150 feared dead  Full Article 

Controversial Remark

Controversial Remark

Thousands denounce HSBC board member's likening of Hong Kong people to freed slaves.  Full Article 

Human Rights

Human Rights

Iran hits back after West condemns its human rights record  Full Article 

Failed Launch

Failed Launch

U.S. rocket explosion investigation suspects main engine failure  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage