Protocol on illicit trade – the first anniversary of adoption

One year ago, on 12 November 2012, the Parties to the WHO FCTC adopted the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products in Seoul, Republic of Korea. It is the first protocol to the WHO FCTC and a new international treaty in its own right. It is also another milestone in strengthening tobacco control and the legal dimensions of international health cooperation. The Protocol is open for signature and ratification by all WHO FCTC Parties.

To date, 37 Parties from all six WHO regions have signed. To become a Party to the Protocol, Parties to the WHO FCTC that have signed will also have to ratify it. In order to enter into force, the Protocol requires ratification by 40 Parties.

The Protocol aims at eliminating all forms of illicit trade, such as illegal production or smuggling of tobacco products. It is estimated that about 10% of the global cigarette market is illicit. However, in some countries, more than 50% of the market is illicit. The illicit trade poses a major challenge to public health and tobacco control because it makes tobacco products more accessible and affordable, and particularly harms vulnerable groups, including young people and the poor. Thus, combating the illicit trade is one of the key tobacco control measures outlined in the WHO FCTC, and is greatly strengthened by the Protocol. Another incentive for combating illicit trade is the loss in revenue that most governments suffer due to smuggling – it is estimated that if illicit trade were eliminated, governments worldwide could gain at least US$ 30 billion per year in tax revenue. The Protocol will also contribute to combating organized crime internationally.

Parties to the WHO FCTC are encouraged to sign and ratify the Protocol to enable its entry into force and the commencement of its implementation as soon as possible.