WHO’s Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco products started.

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WHO’s Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products Is Now ‘Live’

  • The first legally binding instrument adopted under the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) has started.
  • This instrument is the ‘Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products‘.
  • The protocol will enter into force in 90 days, in time for the Conference of Parties (COP8) which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2018.


  • The WHO FCTC was adopted at the World Health Assembly in 2003. The Convention itself came into force in 2005.
  • There are currently 168 signatories to the FCTC and 181 parties to it, with the most recent one being Mozambique in July 2017.
  • India has been an enthusiastic participant to the convention, having been a signatory since 2003.


  • According to the WHO, it is estimated that one in every ten cigarettes and tobacco products consumed globally is illicit.
  • There are major health, economic and security concerns that dog the illicit trade of tobacco products.
  • The protocol with its legal binding, aims to address some of these issues.


  • At least 40 countries needed to ratify or accede to the protocol in order for it to become international law.
  • The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ratified it last week. This brought the required number of ratifiers up to 41 and has breathed legal life into the protocol.
  • India was the 37th party to ratify the protocol.

How protocol works?

It focuses on

  1. Preventing illicit trade,
  2. Promoting law enforcement and
  3. Providing the legal basis for international cooperation.
  4. secure the supply chain of tobacco products, such as through licensing, record keeping and a global tracking and tracing regime

Why India needs the protocol?

  • Major concern is illegal trade in India.
  • Industry estimates India’s illicit trade can be around 20%
  • But a recent study in the British Medical Journal Tobacco Control quantified India’s problem as a small one, at 2.73%.
  • The most number of illicit products in this study were seen in India’s border cities and states, such as Aizawl and Kolkata, with cigarettes from Myanmar, Indonesia, and Nepal etc.
  • Smuggling of international brand account for a fourth of the cigarette industry in India and estimated a revenue loss of Rs 13,000Cr per annum.
  • A 2017 study from FICCI and KPMG said that the market of illicit cigarettes trade in India by 2015 was Rs 25,000 crore.

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