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Meeting explores avenues to curb illicit trade in tobacco products

The Second Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) to the Protocol on Eliminating Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products ended on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. The session, which built on the foundations of the treaty that only entered into force three years ago, was conducted virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Photo credit: AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI / Getty Images

The three-day session saw a series of key decisions adopted, including the launch of an innovative plan to ensure reliable funding for the Protocol. To strengthen implementation of the Protocol, Parties agreed to the setting up of a new investment fund to help support the drive to end the illicit tobacco trade.

This new initiative will source financial contributions beyond the traditional health sector, establishing a capital investment fund, the earned revenue of which will be used to support the activities of the Protocol. 

Illicit trade in tobacco products dramatically reduces government revenue. It is estimated that up to $47 billion is lost globally every year.

The Protocol provides tools for preventing illicit trade by securing the supply chain. MOP2 has developed a road map that will help improve the global track and trace system. The object is to secure the tobacco supply chain and prevent the manufacture and circulation of illicit tobacco products. Parties to the Protocol also agreed to develop a global network so that they can exchange information on the movement of tobacco products. 

Almost all Parties to the MOP attended the session – 59 participated. MOP2 agreed to strengthen international cooperation to ensure greater assistance between Parties – an important step that is expected to accelerate the adoption of best practices and support the introduction of innovations. The Parties also adopted a strategy for mechanisms of assistance and mobilisation of financial resources to deepen the implementation of the Protocol.

Opening the event, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghedreyesus, Director General, WHO said, “Taxation is the single most effective tool for reducing tobacco use, but illicit trade in tobacco products undermines the effectiveness of tax policies. Illicit tobacco products also exacerbate inequalities, because they are often cheaper and more accessible to vulnerable populations, such as young people.”

Dr. Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat, said, “The Protocol also supports us on matters that have been linked to our very safety and security. It is recognised that illicit trade in tobacco products is connected to transnational organised crime, raising income for its activities. Indeed, we have many reasons to work together to strengthen the effectiveness of the Protocol.”

The next Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol will be held in Panama in 2023, along with the Tenth Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

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