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European Parliament approves the ratification of the Illicit Trade Protocol

Strasbourg, 7 June 2016- The EU will soon become the 18th jurisdiction to ratify the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (Illicit Trade Protocol). The Smoke Free Partnership welcomes the European Parliament`s plenary vote for the ratification of the Protocol by the EU and calls on the EU Member States to follow its lead.

The European Parliament voted with a large majority in favour of two recommendations from the Committees on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and on International Trade to ratify the Illicit Trade Protocol, which was concluded in 2012 under the auspices of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Florence Berteletti, SFP Director, stated: `Today the EU made an important step towards a global solution that provides a comprehensive, up-to date and independent approach in the fight against illicit tobacco trade. We urge Member States who have not yet ratified the Protocol to do so, in order to counter the financial, legal and health impacts of the illicit trade of tobacco products. As we move towards global solutions, tobacco industry agreements become a tool of the past, which no longer meets the needs or the standards of the current fight against illicit tobacco trade`.

The Protocol`s ratification comes one month before the expiry of the controversial Phillip Morris International (PMI) Agreement with the EU, which uses a tobacco industry-controlled `system` for tracking and tracing of tobacco products. Such a `system` goes against Articles 8.2 and 8.12 of the Protocol. As a global treaty, the Protocol takes precedence over any Agreements with the tobacco industry. SFP urges the Commission and Member States to reject any renewal or extension of the PMI Agreement and instead focus their efforts and resources on the implementation of the Illicit Trade Protocol.

The Protocol is the first global treaty with the specific goal of eliminating all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products. It encompasses a range of measures relating to the tobacco supply chain, including the licensing of imports, exports and manufacture of tobacco products; the establishment of tracking and tracing system independent from the industry; record-keeping and regulation of Internet sales, duty-free sales and international transit; and the imposition of criminal sanctions on those responsible for illicit trade. The Protocol also criminalises illicit manufacturing and cross-border smuggling of tobacco products.

The ratification of the Protocol has been already approved by the EU Council in February 2016. The European Parliament`s consent given today will now be sent to the Council for a formal approval, then published in the Official Journal of the EU. The ratification will be final 20 days after publication.

In order for the Protocol to be legally binding at global level, it needs at least 40 signatories to have approved, accepted, accessed, or ratified it. Currently, 17 countries in the world have ratified it, five of which are in the EU: Austria, Spain, Portugal, France and Latvia. By ratifying the Protocol, the EU commits to implement its provisions, which can be done before 40 signatures and legally binding status are reached.

SFP urges the EU to implement the Protocol without delay and the Member States to speed up the process of ratification in order to support the global fight against illicit tobacco trade.

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