On June 27, 2018, the conditions for the entry into force of the first legally binding instrument adopted under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) were met, paving the way to eliminate illicit trade of tobacco products.

“The Secretariat of the (WHO FCTC) is pleased to announce that with the ratification of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the necessary number of Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (the Protocol) has been reached for its enter into force in 90 days,” said the agency in a press release.

According to the press release, the achievement is a milestone in the history of tobacco control. It says the Protocol contains a full range of measures to combat illicit trade distributed in three categories: preventing illicit trade, promoting law enforcement and providing the legal basis for international cooperation.

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The Protocol aims to secure the supply chain of tobacco products, through licensing, due diligence and record keeping, and requires the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime that will allow Governments to effectively follow up tobacco products from the point of production to the first point of sale.

In order for it to be effective, the Protocol provides for intensive international cooperation including on information sharing, technical and law enforcement, cooperation, mutual legal and administrative assistance, and extradition, says the press release.

The fulfilment of the legal requirements for its entry into force, will allow 40 Parties to hold the First session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, from October 8-10, 2018 following the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP8) of the WHO FCTC.

WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The entering into force of the Protocol will send a clear message of the international community’s commitment to combating illicit trade in tobacco products worldwide. Its implementation will represent an important effort of the need for multilateral cooperation in order to solve international problems. The entering into force of the Protocol represents the first step in the path for the elimination of illicit trade of tobacco products worldwide”.

Commenting on the accomplishment, Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat, said: “With the entering into force of the Protocol, we have made yet another step in our global efforts in tobacco control. To tackle illicit trade is to tackle accessibility and affordability of tobacco products, to be more effective on the control of the packaging and to reduce funding of transnational criminal activities whilst protecting the governmental revenues from tobacco taxation. I am very proud of this historical achievement and also to function as Secretariat to two legal instruments.”

The Protocol is a new international treaty. It was built upon article 15 of the WHO FCTC and adopted by the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco in 2012. The Protocol was developed in response to the growing international illicit trade in tobacco products, which poses major health, economic and security concerns around the world. It is estimated that one in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally is illicit.

Uganda is not a Party to this protocol as it has not appended its signature on it. However its neignbours Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo are signatories to the Protocol though the three countries have not ratified the instrument yet.

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