Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Manufacturer information will be stitched in every pack of cigarettes Is the protocol binding?

Dr Bettcher: First, let me explain that the protocol was approved by all the interested countries after four years of difficult negotiations, and it is part of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). This convention entered into force in 2005 and it was signed by 176 States. Russia also signed the WHO FCTC in 2008.

After Seoul conference, where the Protocol was adopted, it will be open for signature at the office of the World Health Organization in Geneva in January 2013. The signing procedure will be completed in January 2014. Then the document will be deposited at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York.

The Protocol will enter into force after it is ratified by at least 40 out of 176 countries, that signed WHO FCTC. The protocol states that countries will have to track chains of movements of tobacco products on a global scale. What is it?

Dr Bettcher: Every pack of cigarettes will be "stitched" with electronic information about the manufacturer, the production site and other identifying data. Information from all packs will be read by scanners installed on the assembly line, and it will be transmitted to the national authorities. What if the scanner is broken or intentionally broken?

Dr Bettcher: Then production stops. Such chips and electronic scanners are partially introduced in production in Turkey and Brazil. All the information on packs is considered by the Ministries of Finance of these countries.

Kenya plans to equip in this way the production of cigarettes. Moreover, Kenya has experience on chipping transit. It's a cute trick by tobacco companies - the goods are imported into the country ostensibly for the purpose of transit, but then disappear in the black market. Any tobacco products passing through Kenya are now marked with a special chip, electronic stamp, and information about each pack comes to authorities. Authorities are able to monitor the movement of tobacco products across the country, from border to border. If a truck with tobacco disappeared, and can not be tracked, then a special squad goes to the place of the last coordinates and finds out what happened to product. Looks like it doesn’t apply in Russia?

Dr Bettcher: In Russia - no. How convincing are the arguments of tobacco companies saying that tax increase will lead to smuggling increase?

Dr Bettcher: One of the agenda points of the conference in Seoul is just a discussion of tax policy, which could reduce the consumption of tobacco in the world. It is clear that tobacco companies are against the increase of excise, because this reduces their profits. However, we recommend an excise of 70% from retail price of cigarettes. High excise tax increases the cost of cigarettes in retail and therefore reduces their consumption. Planned growth of excise taxes is one of the most effective measures to reduce tobacco consumption, along with the ban on tobacco advertising, on smoking in all public places without exception. In Australia, Canada, Estonia, Great Britain a significant increase in excise has already given results.

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