A factory producing counterfeit cigarettes was discovered in the Borinage area in Belgium in October 2013.
Illicit tobacco trade costs EU budgets €10bn a year

Council approves tobacco protocol

09.12.2013 - 18:03

The European Council today gave its go-ahead for the EU to sign the World Health Organisation (WHO) Protocol on the Elimination of the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.

Algirdas Semeta, anti-fraud Commissioner welcomed the move.  

"Every year, public budgets lose around €10 billion a year in the EU alone due to the illegal tobacco trade. Moreover, tobacco smuggling undermines health policies, and helps to fund even more sinister crimes. The EU pours huge resources into stamping out contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. But, it is not a problem we can eliminate on our own. The international nature of this problem demands an international response. The EU must throw its full weight behind the implementation of the WHO Protocol, and help stamp out this pernicious activity across the global,” the Commissioner said. 

The Protocol on the Elimination of the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was agreed in November 2012 by the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Its aim is to establish a global approach to stamping out the illegal tobacco trade, through strict rules and controls on the supply and movement of tobacco products.

Under the Protocol, all those engaged in the tobacco supply chain (which also covers tobacco products and the manufacturing equipment) will be required to conduct due diligence on their customers, i.e. they must ensure that sales to their customers reflect the real and legitimate demand, and there is not excess supply which could be used in the black market.

The Protocol also foresees the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime for all tobacco products, within 5 years of its entry into force. This would include unique identification markings, which will help determine the origin of tobacco products, as well as the point at which they are diverted into the illegal supply chain.

There is an obligation to implement effective controls on tobacco and tobacco products in Free Trade Zones. Tobacco products will no longer be allowed to be mixed with non-tobacco products when exporting from a Free Zone.

The EU will sign the Protocol in the coming weeks. To enter into force, the Protocol will need to be ratified by 40 signatories.