Nations Making Progress on Tobacco Smuggling Treaty, WHO Announces

Nations negotiating a treaty to stamp out tobacco smuggling are making significant progress, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week. Tobacco smuggling is estimated to cost governments up to $50 billion in tax revenues annually.

The United States is not among the 174 WHO member states participating in the negotiations, the Associated Press reports. This means the treaty would not apply to the U.S., unless the country signs it later.

Treaty negotiators are meeting Thursday in Geneva to work on issues including duty-free and Internet sales, extradition of alleged smugglers and supply chain tracking. If the group can resolve those issues, a draft will be voted on by countries meeting in South Korea in November.

According to WHO, tobacco smuggling is a critical public health issue because it brings tobacco into markets cheaply, making cigarettes more affordable and thus stimulating consumption.

The treaty calls for a tracking system that will require all cigarette packages to be marked so that customs officials can trace their origin, the article notes.

WHO’s Dr. Haik Nikogosian said the tracking system would help law enforcement officials establish which routes are used to smuggle tobacco products. He said smuggling often occurs with the consent of cigarette manufacturers.

Cigarettes are the world’s most widely smuggled, but otherwise legal, consumer product, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The group says that illicit trade accounts for approximately one-tenth of global cigarette sales, or about 600 billion cigarettes.

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