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The WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products: A Next Step in International Control of Tobacco Products

  • Lukasz Gruszczynski (a1)


This report discusses the main provisions of the recently adopted WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. While recognizing the remarkable achievement of the global community in its efforts to curb illicit trade in tobacco products at the international level, the report also highlights those aspects of the Protocol that may undermine its effectiveness in the long–term perspective. In this context the enforcement capabilities of developing countries are cited as a main concern.



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1 Although guidelines are non–binding instruments, they may be considered as international standards under the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and enjoy a quasi–normative status. For more details, see Gruszczynski, Lukasz, “The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as an International Standard under the TBT Agreement?”, 5 TDM Journal (2012).

2 Joossens, Luk, Merriman, David, Ross, Hana and Raw, Martin, “The Impact of Eliminating the Global Illicit Cigarette Trade on Health and Revenue”, 105 Addiction (2010), pp. 16401649, at p. 1645.

3 Ibidem, p. 1646.

4 Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC, First Session (6–17 February 2006), Decisions and Ancillary Documents, COP/1/2006/ CD, p. 57

5 Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC, Second Session (30 June – 6 July 2007), Decisions and Ancillary Documents, CIO/2/2007/CD, p. 28.

6 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, signed on 15 November 2000, entered into force on 29 September 2003, 2225 UNTS 209.

7 Neil Boister, “Recent Progress in the Development of A Protocol on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products”, 5 Asian Journal of WTO & International Health Law & Policy (2010), pp. 53–86, at p. 59. The European Union concluded four agreements with Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco Limited. For the full texts of these agreements, see: <> (last accessed on 07 January 2013).

8 These sessions were held in Geneva in October 2008, June 2009 and March 2010.

9 Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC, Fourth Session (15– 20 November 2010), Decisions and Ancillary Documents, FCTC/ COP/4/REC/1, p. 58.

10 Art. 1(6) of the Protocol, repeating Art. 1(a) of the FCTC.

11 Transcrime (Joint Research Centre on Transnational Crime), Analysis of the Draft Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, Milan: 2012, p. 8.

12 Ibidem, p. 13.

13 Art. 27 of the FCTC.

14 Dr. Margaret Chan Director–General of the World Health Organization, Address to the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 12 November 2012, available on the Internet at <> (last accessed on 07 January 2013).

15 Cf., Boister, supra note 7, p. 57. See also, Lee, Kelley and Collin, Jeff,” ‘Key to the future’: British American Tobacco and cigarette smuggling in China”, 3(7) PLOS Medicine (2006), p. 228 et sqq.; Legresley, Eric, Lee, Kelley, Muggli, Monique et al., “British American Tobacco and the ‘insidious impact of illicit trade’ in cigarettes across Africa”, 17 Tobacco Control (2008), pp. 339346.

16 See generally, Joossens, Luk and Raw, Martin, “Progress in Combating Cigarette Smuggling: Controlling the Supply Chain”, 17 Tobacco Control (2008), pp. 399404.

17 For a good overview of the earlier drafts, see, Boister, supra note 7, pp. 65–81.

18 Transcrime, supra note 11, p. 20.

19 Ibidem.

20 Framework Convention Alliance, “Briefing Note: Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on an Illicit Trade Protocol”, 24 February 2010, available on the Internet at: <> (last accessed on 07 January 2013).

21 Liberman, Jonathan, Blecher, Evan, Carbajales, Alejandro Ramos and Fishburn, Burke, “Opportunities and risks of the proposed FCTC protocol on illicit trade”, 20 Tobacco Control (2011), pp. 436 438, at p. 437.

22 Joossens et al., supra note 2, pp. 1646–47.

23 Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC, Report to the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties of the Chairperson1 of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on a Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, FCTC/COP/5/7, 11 May 2012, p. 4.

24 Liberman et al., supra note 21, at p. 437.

25 The agreement is available at the Commission webpage: <> (last accessed on 07 January 2013).

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European Journal of Risk Regulation
  • ISSN: 1867-299X
  • EISSN: 2190-8249
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-risk-regulation
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