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The European Union (EU) is to sign the World Health Organization's (WHO) Protocol against the illicit trade in tobacco products in a bid to recoup some of the EUR10bn (USD13.7bn) lost each year to such activity.
The Protocol was agreed to in November, 2012, at a conference of parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It is designed to offer a global approach to tackling the illegal trade, through strict rules and controls on the supply and movement of tobacco products.
It stipulates that all those engaged in the tobacco supply chain must conduct due diligence on their customers. The aim is to ensure that sales reflect a real and legitimate demand, and to eliminate the creation of excess supply which could be used in the black market. It is further expected that a global tracking and tracing regime for all tobacco products will be set up within five years of the Protocol's implementation.
There is also an obligation to apply effective controls on tobacco and tobacco products within Free Trade Zones. It will no longer be permissible to mix such substances with non-tobacco products when exporting from a Free Trade Zone.
To enter into force, the Protocol must be ratified by 40 signatories.
Commenting on the EU's decision, Tax Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta said: "The EU pours huge resources into stamping out contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. But it is not a problem we can eliminate on our own. The international nature of this problem demands an international response. The EU must throw its full weight behind the implementation of the WHO Protocol, and help stamp out this pernicious activity across the globe."
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