The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, adopted by the Parties to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in November, was opened for signature by the Parties in Geneva.
The new international treaty is aimed at combating illegal trade in tobacco products through control of the supply chain and international cooperation.
As a key measure, the Parties committed themselves to establish a global tracking and tracing system to reduce and eventually eradicate illicit trade.
This was contained in a statement signed by Christian Lindmeier, Media and Communications Officer, Convention Secretariat of WHO and copied to Ghana News Agency on Friday.
It said illicit trade in tobacco products is a global problem; which increases the accessibility and affordability of tobacco products thus undermining tobacco control policies and severely burdening health systems.
The statement said illicit trade leads to significant revenue losses for governments.
It noted that the elimination of all forms of illicit trade including smuggling and illegal manufacturing is therefore an essential component of tobacco control.
“The protocol gives the world a unique legal instrument for countering and eventually eliminating a sophisticated international criminal activity that costs a lot, especially for health,” it quoted WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan on the occasion of the signing ceremony.
According to the statement the new Protocol would help to protect people across the globe from the health risks of tobacco.
It held that the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced; which kills nearly six million people a year.
It said approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco and this accounts for one in 10 adult deaths.
“The adoption of the Protocol is the result of close cooperation between multiple sectors of government.
“It also shows how a unified stand on a public health subject can benefit important government objectives on health and beyond, such as protecting revenues and countering criminal activities,” Dr Haik Nikogosian, Head of the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control(FCTC).
According the statement representatives of 12 Parties– China, France, Gabon, Libya, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey and Uruguay – representing all six WHO regions, signed the Protocol during the ceremony.
It said after the initial two days in Geneva, the Protocol would remain open for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York until January 9, 2014 and would enter into force 90 days after the 40th Party has ratified it.
The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was adopted at the 5th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO FCTC on November 12, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea and it is the first protocol to the WHO FCTC.
The COP is the central organ and governing body of the Convention and comprises 176 Parties.
The WHO FCTC was adopted by the World Health Assembly on May 21, 2003 and entered into force on February 27 2005.
It has since become one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations history. GNA