15 Sep :In order to tackle the problem of illicit trade in tobacco products, The WHO-South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare are jointly organizing a two-day Regional Workshop on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products to be held from 15-16 September, 2008 in New Delhi.
This workshop is being attended by delegates from SEAR countries – Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan, China, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand & Timur-leste. The Union Minister for Health and Familiy Welfare will formally inaugurate the workshop tomorrow.
The Workshop is being organized with the financial support from the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA). The specific objectives of the workshop are:o To review and assess countries’ capacity to control illicit trade in tobacco products.
o To identify key actions in the Region to support countries in their efforts to develop and implement measures to control illicit trade in tobacco products, including the role of WHO and other international organizations in this area; and
o To review the text for the Draft Protocol to the Convention on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products issued by the Chairman of INB.
The Regional Workshop aims to raise awareness regarding serious and adverse health consequences of illicit trade in tobacco products. Illicit trade includes smuggling, evasion of Central Excise duties/taxes and counterfeits. Each one of these undermine the efforts of Government to collect taxes due on tobacco products. The lost taxes could have been used for national programs including tobacco control initiatives. The illicit trade leads to availability of tobacco products at cheaper prices. Most countries in this region are grappling with the problem of illicit trade in tobacco products. There is also a realization that Governments will need to work together to address this serious concern. The WHO – Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first global health treaty. This treaty identifies key demand and key supply reduction strategies. The elimination of illicit trade is one such supply reduction strategy. However, the effective implementation of FCTC provisions will require binding obligation(s) among countries as also a firm commitment for international cooperation. The First Protocol/ treaty under the Convention is therefore being negotiated to regulate / prohibit illicit trade in tobacco products.
The Parties to FCTC are presently negotiating the Protocol a number of key elements are proposed to be discussed in the next round of negotiations, scheduled from 20 – 25 October 2008 at Geneva.
At the end of the Workshop, it is expected that there will be greater awareness and experience, sharing of issues and challenges in the SEARO Region as also support for the Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.