In a landmark effort to eliminate illegal trafficking of tobacco products, delegates from the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) adopted a treaty on November 11, 2012, to control the international tobacco supply chain.

Recognizing the serious health problems not only of those who use tobacco products but also of those around them, this international treaty commits participating countries to establish a global tracking system to reduce the illicit trade of tobacco products.

According to WHO officials, the use of tobacco products is responsible for over five million deaths worldwide each year – and 12% of all deaths above the age of 30. This historic agreement will allow countries around the globe to join hands in an effort to reduce the illegal marketing and distribution of these products and provide tax revenues to fund campaigns to reduce their consumption.

“The elimination of all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, including smuggling and illegal manufacturing, is an essential component of tobacco control,” says Ambassador Ricardo Varela, President of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the WHO FCTC. “In adopting this new Protocol by consensus, countries have reiterated their historic commitment towards protecting the health of their citizens, particularly the young and vulnerable.”

Illegal tobacco trade has resulted in a significant loss of tax revenue to governments worldwide and has seriously undermined their efforts to improve the health of their citizens. According to Dr. Haik Nikogosian, Head of the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC, “The new Protocol establishes what actions constitute unlawful conduct and sets out related enforcement and international cooperation measures, that will help counteract and eventually eliminate illicit trade.”

In a keynote speech to the body, WHO Executive Director Margaret Chan said, “I can think of no other undertaking that can make such a huge contribution to better health in every corner of the world. And that includes the health of young children and unborn babies.” She went on to add, “Tobacco use is the epidemiological equivalent of a drive-by shooting – it hurts the innocent bystanders as well as those held captive by an addiction that damages their health.”

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About The Author

Frank Gillingham, M.D. serves as Chief Medical Director for HTH Worldwide. Frank has led HTH Worldwide's international business development efforts in Europe and Canada and has been a guest speaker at international business conferences and has authored a series of articles on travel medicine, including pieces on travel information available on the Internet and the role of physicians working with travel insurers. Frank is a Board-Certified Internist and Emergency Medicine Specialist. He is also a private emergency physician in Southern California and a former emergency department director and member of the UCLA emergency department staff. Frank completed residency training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .

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