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Health treaty gives governments the power to eliminate tobacco smuggling

Illicit Trade Protocol passes threshold to bring it into force, with 44 country parties

(New York, USA) – As the  WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (ITP) passed the threshold of 40 countries, a 90-day countdown began for it to come into force. The ITP aims to eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, helping to ensure that governments receive the tax revenues that are due – which can be used to fund health and social programs. Reducing illicit trade also helps to ensure that tobacco taxes are as effective as possible in reducing tobacco use, as consumers cannot easily access cheaper (smuggled) alternatives.

The ITP provides tools for preventing illicit trade by securing the supply chain with the establishment of an international tracking and tracing system, by countering illicit trade through strong law enforcement, and other measures that enable international cooperation.

“It was encouraging to see governments meet and surpass the 40 countries needed to ratify the ITP,” said José Luis Castro, CEO and President of the global health organization Vital Strategies. “The greater the global collaborative effort to reduce the smuggling of tobacco, the greater the opportunity to reduce its pernicious effect on government revenues and health. We urge more countries to ratify the treaty and join the group of countries committed to reducing tobacco use.”

Tobacco companies inflate claims about illicit trade to argue against effective tobacco control policies including tobacco taxes and plain packaging, but industry arguments should be treated with particular caution, because they often overstate the illicit cigarette trade problem, according to the most recent edition of The Tobacco Atlas.

Illicit trade estimates that are not influenced by the tobacco industry are rare. The most reliable methods of illicit trade estimation include surveys of cigarette packs, both discarded and presented by smokers. Governments need better, independent data on this important issue, and that includes ensuring that track and trace systems do not use systems developed by the tobacco industry.

Forty-four (44) countries have ratified the ITP to date. Countries can still become Parties to the ITP and may participate in the first Meeting of the Parties (MOP) if they ratify the protocol and become a Party to the treaty no less than 90 days before the MOP in October.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact