MOHW FCTC Multi-sectoral Workshop on the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton in discussion with Dr Vera da Costa e Silva, head of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on the opening day of the regional Multisectoral Workshop to promote the Protocol for the Elimination of Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. The workshop will run until October 10.

Today, more than 60 delegates representing 13 countries met in Montego Bay, Jamaica for the multisectoral workshop for WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Parties in the Caribbean Region to promote the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (the Protocol).

The Protocol is the first legally binding instrument adopted under the WHO FCTC.

To date, the Protocol counts 56 Parties, including 6 Parties (Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama and Uruguay) from the WHO Region of the Americas, but none from the Caribbean States that are Parties to the WHO FCTC.

The coming into force of the Protocol in September 2018 was a milestone in the history of tobacco control and public health, as the Protocol contains a full range of measures to combat illicit trade in tobacco products distributed in three categories: preventing illicit trade, promoting law enforcement and providing the legal basis for international cooperation.

Moreover, it aims to secure the supply chain of tobacco products, through licensing, due diligence and record keeping. It also 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. In order for it to be effective, the Protocol provides for intensive international cooperation, including on information sharing, technical and law enforcement, cooperation, mutual legal and administrative assistance, and extradition.

The Honourable Minister of Health and Wellness of Jamaica officiated the opening of the workshop and said, “There is no question that the ratification of the Protocol is a critical step in tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products and the related public health threat. It will also provide an important basis for international cooperation in health”.

Added the Minister: “The illicit trade in tobacco products increases the accessibility and affordability of tobacco products, thus fuelling the tobacco epidemic, which kills some 8 million people each year. More than 7 million are the result of direct tobacco use and more than one million the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. The illicit trade also undermines tobacco control policies and causes substantial losses to government revenues while contributing to the funding of transnational criminal activities. We must rein in the illicit trade and the protocol provides us with a tool to do that.”

Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat, said: “This phenomenon poses a serious threat to public health because it increases access to – often cheaper – tobacco products, thus fueling the tobacco epidemic and undermining tobacco control policies. It also causes substantial losses in government revenues, and at the same time contributes to the funding of international criminal activities.”

Dr. da Costa e Silva called on the countries in the Caribbean to forge a united front against the illegal tobacco market. A recent World Bank report on confronting illicit cigarette trade found that countries in the Caribbean region need to significantly strengthen their efforts to control the illicit tobacco trade.

“Combatting the illicit trade in tobacco products is a global problem that requires international solidarity and cooperation. The time has come for the Caribbean countries to join the movement in order to make a significant contribution to this global solution. We need strength in numbers and every country, can play a role in joining this fight against illicit tobacco,” she said.

Dr. da Costa e Silva emphasized that effective implementation of the Protocol must involve the collaboration of government agencies, including customs, finance, justice and law enforcement, with the close engagement of the health sector as, ultimately, the Protocol’s success will be measured in public health gains.

 “Here in Montego Bay we have taken the first steps on a journey to combat the illicit tobacco trade in the Region,” said Dr. da Costa e Silva. “Illicit trade is estimated to account for one out of 10 cigarettes consumed. This makes cigarettes more affordable and available and increases consumption among youth in particular. Ultimately the Protocol is about protecting the future generation from the harms of tobacco, be it licit or illicit.”

Delegates at this workshop agreed to work towards greater collaboration with government agencies, and regional and international bodies in charge of law enforcement and customs, which will be key to effective implementation of the Protocol.

Note to the editor

The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products explained

The Protocol is a new international treaty. It was built upon article 15 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and adopted by the Parties to the WHO FCTC in 2012. The Protocol counts 56 Parties from all around the world and the list of Parties can be found here. The Protocol was developed in response to the growing international illicit trade in tobacco products, which poses major health, economic and security concerns around the world. It is estimated that one in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally is illicit.

The Protocol consist of ten different parts, of which the chapters on supply chain control, law enforcement and international cooperation are the most substantive. Important features include the establishment of a tracking and tracing system for tobacco products (Article 8) and the establishment of the Protocol as a basis for judicial cooperation such as mutual legal assistance (Article 29) between Parties. Furthermore, the Protocol provides officials in law enforcement, customs and the judiciary with the possibility to exchange information on possible offences concerning illicit trade in tobacco products. 

The Protocol was negotiated by the Parties to the WHO FCTC over several years and entered into force on 25 September 2018. The first Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol was celebrated, in Geneva, from 8 – 10 October 2018 and the second session will take place in The Netherlands in November 2020.

For further information:

Secretariat of the WHO FCTC and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products

Website of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products