use is the world's leading cause of preventable death. One person dies from a
tobacco-related illness every six seconds, which is equivalent to around 6
million people a year. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that
deaths related to tobacco use will increase to more than eight million per year
Underscoring the health hazards related to tobacco use and
advocating for efficient policies to reduce tobacco consumption, the WHO and partner
organizations mark 'World No Tobacco Day' (WNTD) on May 31 every year.
year, on WNTD
2015, the WHO asks for actions to end illicit trade of tobacco products.
Officials say that illicit trade of tobacco products is a major global concern,
and it affects health, economy and governance.
The illicit tobacco
trade encourages tobacco use among
youngsters and people who generally have lower incomes by providing tobacco
products at lower prices. The tobacco mafia avoids government taxes through
unlawful manufacturing and smuggling. This affects a nation's economy as the
revenue from taxes might otherwise be spent on public services, including
of continuing efforts to curb the illegal trade, the WHO urges its 194 member
states to sign the "Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products."
Protocol offers the world a unique legal instrument to counter and eventually
eliminate a sophisticated criminal activity. Fully implemented, it will
replenish government revenues and allow more spending on health," says Dr
Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.
Protocol aims to eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products.
8 countries have ratified the Protocol. The Protocol needs approval of 32 more
countries to become an international law.
Vera da Costa E. Silva, Head of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco
Control, said that the protocol requires a wide range of measures controlling
the tobacco supply chain.
include the licensing of imports, exports and manufacture of tobacco products;
the establishment of tracking and tracing systems and the imposition of penal
sanctions on those responsible for illicit trade. It would also criminalize
illicit production and cross border smuggling. The protocol faces overt and
covert resistance from the tobacco industry. Manufacturers know that once
implemented, it will become much harder to hook young people and the poor into
tobacco addiction," explained Silva.
She also said that while
publicly stating its support for action against the illicit trade, the tobacco
industry's behind-the-scenes behavior has been very different. "Internal
industry documents released, as a result of court cases, demonstrate that the
tobacco industry has actively fostered the illicit trade globally. It also
works to block implementation of tobacco control measures, like tax increases
and pictorial health warnings, by arguing they will fuel the illicit trade,"
Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products is Detrimental to Your Health
- Illicit tobacco
products are more affordable. Hence, youngsters get these products easily. Such
products also mislead people by not displaying health warnings. Tobacco mafia
even uses children in illegal selling activities.
trade takes tax revenue away from the government. The money could have
otherwise been used on the public services. Now, profit of the illicit trade
has become a major source for criminal activities.
tobacco trade powers corruption and weakens good governance.
Action Plan for Policy Makers
- The illicit tobacco trade
must be recognized by policy makers. The illicit trade exacerbates the global
tobacco epidemic and related health issues. Such trades also have security
implications. The illicit mafia finances for organized crime like human and
arms trafficking, as well as terrorism.
- Ratification of the
WHO's Protocol is necessary to respond to the financial, legal and health
impacts of the illegal trade of tobacco.
Action Plan for the Public
- People should recognize the adverse health,
economic and social impacts of the illicit trade of tobacco products. They must
be aware of the link between illicit trade of tobacco and crimes such as human
trafficking and organized drug crimes.
- Members of the
public can join the authorities to raise awareness on tobacco-related health
problems and illicit tobacco trade. People can also raise awareness through
Action Plan for Academia
- Academic institutions can conduct studies on
the illicit trade of tobacco products. This will help to further document its
harmful impacts, as well as the benefits to health.
important area of research is the key role the tobacco industry in supporting
the illicit tobacco trade.