On 28 June, the conditions for the entry into force of the WHO’s Protocol on fighting illegal tobacco smuggling were met following ratification by a sufficient number of parties to the FCTC. As of May 2019, each tobacco pack will have at least five identification marks, placed in a variety of ways based on each country’s choice, such as tax stamps, barcodes, QR codes or holograms. The information within will be stored in a centralised database that governments can use to track the movement of tobacco.
The EU, as a party to the Treaty, has already decided on a system for tracking and tracing tobacco products. This system, however, wildly misses the mark. It is unworkable for mid-sized and smaller firms, and places unnecessary burdens on manufacturers and distributors of fine-cut and niche tobacco products, which are not smuggled in Europe. While it is imperative to fight against illicit tobacco products due to the risk they pose for consumers and for State revenues, the EU’s track and trace proposal fails to achieve this in an effective way, instead setting standards where no competency exists and failing to do so in areas where they are badly needed.
ESTA Secretary General Peter van der Mark said: “The protocol on illicit trade mandates the creation of a system similar to the one provided for under the 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive. Unfortunately, in its attempt to meet the requirements of the protocol the EU has failed to take into account the realities of tobacco manufacturing in Member States. Ultimately, the only thing the EU’s “solution” achieves is a very costly system that will drive small and mid-sized manufacturers out of business, leading to further consolidation in the sector.”