13 November 2012

Global deal agreed to fight tobacco smuggling

Global health officials agreed on a deal to fight smuggling of tobacco products, a trade that robs governments of more than $40 billion in revenue each year.


Global health officials agreed on a deal on to fight smuggling of tobacco products, a trade that robs governments of more than $40 billion in revenue each year and undercuts efforts to reduce smoking.

The measures include making it mandatory for member governments to licence manufacturers and for tobacco packaging to be marked so the products can be tracked.

The agreement came at a meeting of the 176 member states to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in the South Korean capital Seoul and follows more than five years of negotiations.

'Illicit trade is bad for health'

"The protocol gives the world an orderly, rules-based instrument for countering and eventually eliminating a very sophisticated international criminal activity," WHO Director General Margaret Chan told the conference.

"Illicit trade is bad for health because it circumvents measures like taxes and price increases that are known to reduce demand."

Roughly one in 10 cigarettes, or 600 billion, are smuggled each year by organised gangs, experts say.

Illicit trade funds criminal organisations

A study by the independent non-profit International Tax and Investment Center based in Washington said approximately 11% of the world cigarette market is illicit, resulting in annual loss in government revenue of more than $40 billion.

"There is evidence that the proceeds of the illicit trade in tobacco products funds both international criminal organisations.

A network of civil society groups, the Framework Convention Alliance, called to pact a major step in curbing the illegal trade in tobacco products.

"The illicit trade in tobacco feeds the worldwide tobacco epidemic by flooding markets with cheap products and keeping tobacco taxes low," it said.

However, some countries where major tobacco companies are based, notably the United States, will not be subject to the anti-smuggling agreement because they have not ratified the original pact.

Industry giants Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco have previously said they would back a pact with effective measures against illicit trade.

(Reuters Health, November 2012)

Read More:

Plain packaging reduces the appeal of smoking

Cigarette warnings prevent ex-smokers relapsing

Smoking still a big issue worldwide


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Choose wisely... »

Healthy diet may extend kidney patients' lives Healthy diet protects teens against later weight gain

Finding the right diet for you

With so many fad diets out there, it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. Dietitian Mpho Tshukudu gives advice on how to find and follow the right diet.

Decor danger! »

Sick building syndrome FAQ: Sick building syndrome What is sick building syndrome?

Your wallpaper might be making you sick

Fungus growing on wallpaper might contribute to 'sick building syndrome', causing symptoms similar to flu and allergies.