New anti-tobacco treaty required tracking codes

Anti-smoking groups are hailing a new international treaty to combat the illicit tobacco trade. Representatives of governments and international organizations Monday, meeting in South Korea, unanimously approved the protocol. The action came on the first day of a meeting of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The protocol creates a new global system requiring non-removable tracking codes on each pack of cigarettes. That is meant to make it easier to trace producers and distributors of counterfeit tobacco products.

Speaking at the convention’s opening session, Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization director-general, urged adoption of what she terms a game-changing treaty.

“The protocol gives the world an orderly, rules-based instrument for countering and eventually eliminating a very sophisticated international criminal activity,” Ms. Chan explained.

World Health estimates one in 10 cigarettes purchased are coming through illegal channels, costing governments more than $40 billion annually in lost taxes.

Cigarette giant Philip Morris International issued a statement hailing the action but saying it is not a “silver bullet for resolving this serious issue.”

“Preventive measures not covered under today’s agreement, such as regulating the essential materials used to produce tobacco products, should be considered by governments in the national implementation of this protocol,” said Peter Nixon, vice president of communications, in the statement released in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The company, which has seven of the world’s top 15 international brands, noted that black market tobacco products combined compose the world’s third largest tobacco supplier.

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