New international treaty gets initial OK to track tobacco

More than 130 nations have agreed on a treaty to fight a booming trade in illicit tobacco products that cost governments up to $50 billion a year in tax revenues.

A provisional agreement reached Wednesday in Geneva requires manufacturers to be licensed and tobacco packaging to bear markings so that illicit goods can be tracked through the supply chain.

Ian Walton-George, chairman of the International Negotiating Body, which supervised the drafting of the text, says huge profits gained from tobacco smuggling is often used to finance crime, and trafficking of drugs, humans, weapons and worse.

The protocol is to be taken up at a World Health Organization meeting in November in Seoul. If the pact is adopted, it will take up to five years to establish the illicit tobacco tracking system.

Tobacco companies were excluded from the negotiations because of concerns they might try to influence the talks.

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