WHO - sesssion on global pact on cigarette smuggling stalled..

March 20, 2010 - We are all counting on World Health Organization (WHO) to provide solution to control the booming worldwide cigarette smuggling (illicit, illegal, contraband) problem. The Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products is being held through Sunday, March 21st. (WHO - 4th session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products..)

Now we find that the global pact to halt smuggling and counterfeiting of tobacco products, which costs governments up to $40 billion a year in lost taxes, has become bogged down over ways to trace products, officials said on Friday, March 19th.

The agreement would also ban duty-free sales of cigarettes, popular with international air travellers, but which health campaigners claim are often diverted into illicit trade. The aim is to reach agreement in Geneva by Sunday ahead of a meeting in November in Uruguay where the pact could be adopted.

But by Friday, debate had not even begun on duty-free sales.

Campaigners have accused multinational tobacco companies and duty-free lobbyists of trying to derail the week-long negotiations being held among officials from 168 countries under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"There is a consensus that track-and-trace measures are needed to combat traffic in illicit products," Vijay Trivedi, policy advisor to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) secretariat, told Reuters. "The devil lies in the detail," he said.

The closed-door talks have stumbled over discussions of details, mainly a "tracking-and-tracing" system for tobacco products at the heart of the new treaty, formally a protocol to the 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The draft treaty would require countries to license tobacco manufacturers and retailers and set up the tracing regime with a global data base. Within three years of adoption, all unit packets of cigarettes would have to be marked with unique serial numbers.

"Having a licensing system on a global scale would be a significant improvement in combating illicit trade and would wipe out a significant portion of smuggling," a Western government official at the talks told Reuters.

The 2005 treaty obliges governments to protect their populations from exposure to tobacco smoke and reduce demand through price and tax measures, regulating packaging and labelling of tobacco products and curbing tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

For further detail see reference..

Reference: WHO global pact against tobacco smuggling stalled by Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, 3/19/2010.