WHO FCTC Conference March 2010 - protocol on illicit trade in tobacco products..

January 23, 2010 - Back at the end of June 2009 representatives of governments gathered in Geneva to negotiate the first worldwide protocol on illicit trade in tobacco products. FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) Conference of the Parties, Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on a Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, Geneva, Switzerland, June 28th - July 5th, 2009. (Eliminating global illicit cigarette trade would save lives and increase tax revenue..)

Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, March 14-21, 2010.

Come March 2010 representatives of governments will meet to discussed and sign off on the draft protocol that expected to boost the war on illicit trade in tobacco products. If signed by governments attending the meeting, the protocol is expected to become an international convention to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products across the globe. The protocol could prohibit manufacturers across the globe from using the internet, telecommunications or any other evolving technology based modes to sell tobacco products or manufacturing equipment used in the production of cigarettes.

Cigarettes are the world's most widely smuggled legal consumer product. The supply of counterfeit tobacco, illegally manufactured tobacco passed off as legitimate products, is a global problem that costs many governments millions of dollars annually in lost revenue. About 657 billion cigarettes a year are sold illicitly - representing an enormous missed tax opportunity for governments, as well as a missed opportunity to prevent many people from starting to smoke and encourage others to quit.

Smugglers in east Africa are suspected to use their wide networks stretching across the war ravaged Somalia and DR Congo to peddle illicit tobacco products through the porous borders and escaping tax in the process and accumulating revenues which are deposited in several banks across the region.

Kenya has already barred the advertising of tobacco products in the media.

The manufacturing or distributing of tobacco products whose duty have not been paid or dealing in products that do not bear applicable fiscal stamps or unique identification markings is considered an offence under the protocol that would be ratified by governments. Defacing or interfering with the applicable stamps on tobacco packaging will become an offence under the protocol. The protocol also bars intermingling or mixing of tobacco products with non tobacco products during storage or transportation through the supply chain will also constitute an offence under the protocol as this is likely to conceal tobacco products.

Traders will also be barred from obtaining tobacco products from vendors or manufacturers who are not licensed to manufacture or deal in tobacco products.

People committing such offences shall be subjected to the domestic laws of the countries signatory to the protocol. Cigarette manufacturers in Kenya say counterfeiting is rife and that the country is used as a conduit to transport illicit tobacco products to the war ravaged DR Congo and Somalia. Leading tobacco products manufacturer British American Tobacco says the government loses upwards of Sh1 billion annually in revenue because of the sale of fake cigarettes.

According to the latest survey by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, the local industry losses upwards of Sh50 billion in sales annually while about Sh19 billion in taxes do not reach the government as a result of the illicit trade. The Industrialisation ministry has put on notice traders dealing in counterfeits following the appointment of an anti counterfeit watchdog that has powers to prosecute cheats in a new move that is intended at putting brakes on fake products. Trade in counterfeits, according to the Economic Survey 2009, is among the key constraints to the local manufacturing sector that posted low growth of 3.8 percent in 2008 compared to a 6.5 percent growth in 2007.

Mr Collin Denyer, a senior investigations manager at tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT), told an anti-counterfeit meeting in Nairobi late last year that the Kenya government was losing upwards of Sh1 billion in revenue because of sale of fake cigarettes. "Counterfeited cigarettes especially from Asia are stealing 13 percent of tobacco market in east Africa. Pirates pocket Sh100 billion each year and this money could be used in other illicit activities such as terrorism in the region" said Mr. Denyer.

There are fears that proceeds from the sale of the counterfeited products could also be used in funding international organised crime and terrorism. BAT which has had several of its top selling brands knocked off and sold in several markets across east Africa and the UK. The cigarettes maker estimates that counterfeiters pocket in the upwards of Sh100 billion each year from the sale of imitated cigarettes across east Africa. (British American Tobacco (BAT) - 100 years in Africa..)

"Counterfeited cigarettes especially from Asia are stealing 13 percent of the tobacco market in east Africa. Pirates pocket Sh100 billion each year and this money could be used in other illicit activities such as terrorism in the region," Mr Denyer said.

Reference: Geneva Meet Trains Sight on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products by Jim Onyango, Individual.com, 1/20/2010.(Business Daily/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX)

Some related news briefs:
Australia - Smuggling of illegal cigarettes has hit an all-time high..;
Quebec - push to stop trade in illicit cigarettes..;
Tobacco smuggling fuels organized crime, robs governments of tax money and spurs addiction..;
Counterfeit products continue to flood EU, U.S. markets..;
Paraquay - top producer of contraband tobacco..;