Closing the door on illicit tobacco trade, opens the way to better tobacco control
This year we are celebrating with the world the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Parties to the WHO FCTC have come a long way in tobacco control since the negotiations of the Convention started; nonetheless there are still major challenges facing tobacco control, one of which is illicit tobacco trade that, unless comprehensively addressed now, can compromise the gains of tobacco control.
In response to the problem of illicit tobacco trade and its repercussions on public health, Parties to the WHO FCTC negotiated the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, which was adopted on 12 November 2012 at the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO FCTC in Seoul, Republic of Korea. It is the first protocol to the WHO FCTC.
Illicit tobacco trade is a global problem and countries of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) are suffering equally from its health and economic consequences. They have been exposed to its negative impacts for years, as documented by internal documents of the tobacco industry (1). Due to the growing population of tobacco users and the transitional political conditions in a significant number of countries, the EMR provides tobacco companies with a unique market to target their product and expand their illicit trade (2). Literature on the subject shows beyond doubt that the industry has been using various routes in the Region to smuggle its products into, out of and within the Region (3).
The impact of illicit tobacco trade on tobacco control policies and gains should not be underestimated. It leads to a growth in consumption of tobacco products and hence an increase in the associated disease burden and death (4). Illicit tobacco products are not subject to taxation, which means that they...