The World Health Organisation announced Friday that it planned to adopt a new international treaty on the illegal tobacco trade by 2010.
"We have finally assessed that we want a protocol on the illicit trade of tobacco," Ian Walton-George, the world health body's top negotiator on the issue, told a press conference at Geneva.
AdvertisementThe WHO has been meeting this week at its headquarters in the Swiss city to debate a new protocol on the illicit tobacco trade to tie in to its wider Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
"2010 is the date for finalising negotiations and adopting the text of the protocol," said Haik Nikogosian, who heads the WHO's anti-tobacco secretariat.
The illicit tobacco trade is estimated to make up approximately 10 percent of global tobacco sales and costs governments between 40 and 50 billion dollars (27-34 billion euros) every year.
In African countries such as Nigeria, its share is estimated to be even higher at between 10 and 16 percent, lobby group Corporate Accountability International (CAI) said earlier this week.
"Controlling this trade, controlling the prices is crucial to prevent young people to use tabacco," Deborah Arnott, European head of the Framework Convention Alliance pressure group, said Friday.
Campaigners alleged ahead of the WHO meeting that tobacco giants Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco actively collude with cigarette smugglers to gain a foothold in lucrative developing markets.
"Transnationals benefit in a number of ways from the illicit trade in tobacco," said Kathyrn Mulvey, CAI's director of international policy.
This includes establishing a brand presence in new markets, and getting more people addicted to cigarettes -- particularly children because smuggled tobacco is so cheap, she told journalists on Wednesday.
"Documents do show industry complicity in this deadly business," Mulvey added.
The WHO said last week that tobacco use could kill more than one billion people around the world this century unless governments and civil society act to reverse the epidemic.
The existing FCTC agreement, signed in February 2005, aims to rein in the estimated five million annual deaths caused by smoking, which the WHO says will double by 2020 if nothing is done.