The 194 member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) have finally ratified the framework on tobacco control.
Coming almost six years after the first protocol was adopted, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) announced that with the ratification of the UK, the necessary number of parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products has been reached for it to enter into force in 90 days.
“It’s a clear message of the international community’s commitment to combating illicit trade in tobacco products worldwide,” WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said, adding that it is the “first step in the path for the elimination of illicit trade of tobacco products worldwide.”
The WHO regarded the protocol as a milestone in the history of tobacco control, as it contains a full range of measures to combat illicit trade distributed in three categories: preventing illicit trade, promoting law enforcement and providing the legal basis for international cooperation.
Moreover, it aims at securing the supply chain of tobacco products, through licensing, due diligence and record keeping, and requires the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime that will allow governments to effectively follow up tobacco products from the point of production to the first point of sale.
The protocol also provides for intensive international cooperation including on information sharing, technical and law enforcement, mutual legal and administrative assistance, and extradition.
Adopted in 2012 at the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC, the protocol was developed in response to the growing international illicit trade in tobacco products, which poses a serious threat to public health.
According to the WHO, illicit tobacco trade has been fuelling the tobacco epidemic and undermining tobacco control policies by increasing the accessibility and affordability of tobacco products.
It also causes substantial losses in government revenues and at the same time contributes to the funding of transnational criminal activities.
The objective of the protocol is the elimination of all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, in accordance with the terms of Article 15 of the WHO FCTC, which addresses means of countering illicit trade in tobacco products, a key aspect of a comprehensive tobacco control policy.
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