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Nations Agree to Global Deal to Combat Tobacco Smuggling

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Health officials of 135 nations provisionally agreed this week to a deal to fight tobacco smuggling.

The agreement was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO), Reuters reports. Tobacco smuggling is estimated to cost governments up to $50 billion in tax revenues annually.

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

Under the agreement, tobacco manufacturers must be licensed, and tobacco packaging must have markings so any goods sold illegally can be traced back through the supply chain, to see where they were diverted, the article notes. The agreement comes after four years of negotiations, according to a WHO news release.

“Illicit trade in tobacco products is one of the most dangerous trades around at the moment in terms of public health. It’s a way of getting cheap cigarettes, illegal cigarettes, into the hands of young people, poor people, people who are in a vulnerable position,” said Ian Walton-George, who chaired the final negotiations.

The deal is likely to be adopted at a WHO meeting in Seoul in November, according to the article. It must be ratified by 40 countries in order to take effect. That process is expected to take two years.

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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