Pact to stop cigarette smuggling to come into effect

Pact to stop cigarette smuggling to come into effect

India may emerge as one of the beneficiaries of a global treaty to curb cigarette smuggling that would come into effect from September 25 with the World Health Organisation receiving support from 40 nations to make it operational.

The Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on Thursday announced that with the ratification of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the necessary number of parties to the WHO protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products has been reached for its entry into force in 90 days.

In the last five years, illegal trade in cigarettes saw a big surge in India. According to the market research firm Euromonitor International, India is the fastest growing and the fourth largest illegal cigarette market in the world totalling 23.9 billion sticks in 2015.

“A FICCI report estimates the overall market for illegal cigarettes in India at 20.2% of the cigarette industry resulting in a revenue loss of Rs 9,139 crores to the national exchequer,” the Tobacco Institute of India had stated in a statement last year.

“By joining the (WHO) protocol, the governments send a clear message that illicit tobacco market will be targeted under the framework of international cooperation by cost-effective measures that will protect the children and socio-disadvantaged populations from being exposed to low cost and easily available tobacco products,” said Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan, who is also the president of a WHO grouping on tobacco control.

The treaty 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.

Considered a milestone in the history of tobacco control, the protocol contains a full range of measures to combat illicit trade distributed in three categories: preventing illicit trade, promoting law enforcement and providing the legal basis for international cooperation.

The protocol aims to secure the supply chain of tobacco products, through licensing, due diligence and record keeping, and requires 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, WHO says in a statement.