Parties to the global treaty to combat the international illicit trade in tobacco products begin their meeting today

15 Nov 2021

This week the Second Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products is convened. Parties to the Protocol must also be Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The number of Parties to the Protocol will soon reach 64, as the treaty enters into force in the most recent country to have ratified it. The Parties consist of countries and jurisdictions who together support activities aimed at stopping the illicit trade in tobacco products.

The aims of the Protocol are to combat illicit trade in tobacco, which undermines tobacco control policies and public health. Parties to the Protocol have enacted or strengthened national legislation aimed at tackling illicit trade in tobacco products.

It is estimated that every year up to 47 billion US dollars is lost globally to illicit trade in tobacco products. To reduce this loss and improve the effectiveness of tobacco control legislation, the Parties this week will consider ways to move forward on implementation of the Protocol, including amplifying its effects through improving international cooperation.

The Protocol supports the implementation of the more established treaty, the WHO FCTC. Ahead of MOP2, Dr. Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat said, “We have serious work to conduct at this meeting. Not only does the illicit trade in tobacco products undermine progress being made on taxing tobacco products, but illicit trade is linked to cross-border organized crime and other activities which threaten our security.”

Discussions at MOP2 will be held from 15 - 18 November and it comes just days after the close of the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the WHO FCFC. During this meeting Parties will discuss a number of issues, including ways of securing the supply chain of tobacco products; tracking and tracing technologies are key to achieving this objective.

Ensuring reliable funding for the Protocol will also be discussed and will include a proposal for an investment fund. The objective is to raise a 25 million US dollar fund which will generate revenue that can be used to strengthen the Protocol. This potential new source of financial contributions is targeted at investors outside the traditional health sector. The plan is similar to the proposal accepted at last week’s COP9.

MOP2 has been postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it the first opportunity for the Parties to the Protocol to discuss its implementation since 2018, when the treaty entered into force.

The Protocol provides a comprehensive set of tools to fight illicit trade, and seeks greater collaboration between government agencies, including customs, finance and law enforcement, with the close engagement of the health sector.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic MOP2 will be a virtual event. Along with Parties there were will be several State non-Party observers attending, as well as a number of tobacco control organizations whose request for observer status is expected to be accepted by the MOP2.