Meeting on Accelerating the Raising of Tobacco Taxes and the Ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products in the Western Pacific

Video message by Dr Vera da Costa e Silva at the Meeting on Accelerating the Raising of Tobacco Taxes and the Ratification of the Protocol in the Western Pacific

Manila, Philippines
27 November 2017

I would like to thank the WHO WESTERN PACIFIC Region for inviting me to this important meeting, unfortunately due to a scheduling conflict, I will not be able to attend.

I am delighted to hear that 36 participants from 22 countries drawn from 3 ministries (health, finance and foreign affairs), plus experts, temporary advisors and civil society will be attending this important meeting.

As you know, the Conference of the Parties at its sixth session adopted guidelines for implementation of Article 6 (Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco).

Evidence has clearly shown that significant tobacco tax increase is the single most effective policy for reducing tobacco use and its health and economic consequences

Besides, higher tobacco taxes are very effective in generating new revenues that can be dedicated to tobacco control and sustainable development

The tobacco industry has always spread myths on Illicit trade in tobacco products to discourage countries embarking on tobacco tax reform, pretending that governments will lose revenues if they increase tobacco taxes because of increased smuggling after an increase in tobacco taxes. It also claims that a decrease in tobacco use prevalence will not be attained since smokers will just shift due to the availability of cheap, smuggled tobacco products.

Evidence though has shown that non-tax factors such as weak governance, high levels of corruption, and ineffective customs and tax administration have an equal or greater role in explaining the extent of tax evasion, and there have also been cases where tobacco companies were involved in or facilitated illicit trade activities

To fight illicit trade, Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) adopted, on 12 November 2012, at the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties in Seoul, Republic of Korea, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, as the first Protocol, built upon Article 15 of the WHO FCTC.

The new treaty provides tools for preventing and controlling illicit trade by securing the supply chain - including by establishing an international tracking and tracing system - through dissuasive law enforcement measures and a suite of measures to enable international cooperation.

The Protocol counts 34 Parties including only Mongolia in the western pacific Region.

Seven more ratifications are required by 2 July 2018 for its entry into force by 30 September 2018.

Therefore, the Secretariat invites all WHO FCTC Parties to consider becoming Parties to the Protocol as soon as possible and deposit the instrument of ratification with the UN Treaty Section in order to convene the first session of the Meeting of Parties (MOP1) from 8 – 10 October 2018 right after the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) scheduled from 1 – 6 October 2018.

I would like to salute the collaboration between the Secretariat and WHO WESTERN PACIFIC Region in the preparation and organization of this meeting. Two members of the Panel of Experts on the Protocol will share their rich experience in fighting illicit trade and on tobacco taxation and one of my staff will work with you on the next steps towards the ratification of the Protocol.

Thanks to the Government of the Philippines for accepting to host this multisectoral meeting.

I wish you all fruitful discussions and I hope you will have time to visit the beautiful city of Manila.

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