Monday, 10 November 2008

WHO presses for tougher control on tobacco trade

Writing in IPS News ("Progress Towards WHO Pact on Tobacco Smuggling"), Gustavo Capdevila outlines the draft protocol to eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, such as contraband, illegal manufacturing and counterfeit cigarettes, which is being pressed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The second meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body in charge of drafting the protocol debated the possibility of creating a group of experts to review certain initiatives, including the feasibility of an international system for monitoring and tracking tobacco products.

The meeting heard how, in Latin America, tobacco products originating in, or in transit through, countries like Paraguay or Panama are sent on circular journeys and return to the same countries, where they are sold at lower prices. In Chile however, international and intersectoral cooperation has contributed to reducing the share of contraband cigarettes from eight percent to just two percent of total consumption.

Curiously the discussions made no mention of branding, trade marks or intellectual property -- ways in which the private sector has traditionally sought to monitor and track both licit and illicit tobacco-related trade.

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