Commission welcomes positive outcome of WHO conference with signature of a protocol to stop illicit trade on tobacco

Brussels, 20-11-2012 — / — A Protocol on the Elimination of the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the main achievement of a conference in Seoul, South Korea, which will conclude its works tomorrow. Signed on 12th November, the Protocol was negotiated by the European Commission, on behalf of the EU and its Member States. The Protocol forces the Parties to implement effective measures to eliminate the illicit manufacturing and trading of tobacco products, which causes losses, in the EU and Member States, of approximately €10 billion per year. Effective measures against illicit products also ensure that the safeguards of tobacco control legislation, e.g. on ingredients control or labelling, are better respected.

“The illicit tobacco trade is a global threat requiring concerted action at international level. For that reason am I very pleased that the European Commission, as the negotiator for this Protocol, has contributed to the successful outcome of these negotiations. The Protocol is an important part of a comprehensive tobacco control policy and will make a significant contribution to eliminating the illicit trade in tobacco products,” said Commissioner responsible for the fight against fraud, Algirdas Šemeta.

The Protocol contains provisions on the control of the supply of tobacco products. It requires all companies and persons engaged in the supply chain of tobacco, tobacco products and manufacturing equipment for making tobacco products to conduct due diligence on their customers, to ensure that sales to these customers are commensurate with legitimate demand.

Furthermore, it foresees the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime, within 5 years of the entry into force of the Protocol, for all tobacco products. One element of such a system consists of unique identification markings which will assist in determining the origin and the point of diversion and will enable the monitoring and control of the movement of tobacco products.

The protocol also contains the obligation to implement effective controls on tobacco and tobacco products in the Free Trade Zones. It will no longer be allowed to mix tobacco products with non-tobacco products when exporting the tobacco from a Free Zone.

The EU should be among the first Parties to sign and ratify the Protocol.


The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims at reducing tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world in a comprehensive manner. The FCTC covers a host of measures including a requirement for countries to impose restrictions on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, to regulate the packaging and labelling and the content of tobacco products, to ensure strict smoking controls in public places and to make use of tax and price measures in order to reduce tobacco consumption. Ratified by 176 Parties, including the European Union and all of its Member States, it is one of the most widely accepted UN Treaties in history.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the FCTC decided in 2007 to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to negotiate a Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products. For the Commission, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) was the lead negotiator in the Protocol negotiations, supported throughout by DG SANCO (the service in charge of the FCTC co-ordination). The Council mandated the Commission to negotiate the Protocol in its Council Decision of 20 December 2007.

During the Conference of the Parties, a number of other important issues were discussed intensively, including new Guidelines on price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, revised Guidelines on tobacco ingredients and ingredients reporting and a paper on economically viable alternatives to tobacco growing.

Contacts :

Emer Traynor (+32 2 292 15 48)

Natasja Bohez Rubiano (+32 2 296 64 70)


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