World Health Organization calls for curbing illicit tobacco trade market

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. World Health Organization calls for curbing illicit tobacco trade market. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2016;9:124-5


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Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. World Health Organization calls for curbing illicit tobacco trade market. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Sep 19];9:124-5. Available from:

Dear Sir,

Every year the consumption of tobacco accounts for the death of six million individuals worldwide, of which, in excess to, 0.6 million deaths result from secondhand smoke. [1] Although, many factors have contributed to a rise in the consumption of tobacco, an increase in the illicit tobacco market across the borders has played a major role in complicating the issue further. [2] The problem of illicit trade of tobacco is not limited to developed nations alone: Instead, almost all the nations across the globe are facing this problem in some form or another. [2],[3],[4] In fact, it has been estimated that one out of every ten cigarettes consumed globally has been attributed to the illicit tobacco market. [5]

The illicit tobacco market has resulted in a wide range of consequences that can pose a serious threat to the public health aspect as it enhances the accessibility of people to a cheaper variety of tobacco products, and thus neutralizes the influence of existing tobacco control strategies. [6] It is globally acclaimed that enforcement of taxes on tobacco products is a major initiative to reduce the prevalence of tobacco consumption. However, because of the growth in the illicit tobacco trade, associated taxes are avoided and thus there is a significant loss in collected revenues.­ [6],[7] In fact, one of the estimates released by the European Union suggested that every year more than €10 billion are lost in taxes and revenues because of illicit trade of cigarettes alone.­ [5] Furthermore, because of these practices, an increase in corruption and an added burden on the health care delivery system has been observed as well. [5] Hence, it is very important to realize that the general population has to bear the cost of restoring their health, while in reality, it is the tobacco industry and the criminal groups that are actually benefiting. [5],[6],[7]]

Realizing the magnitude of the problem of illicit trade in tobacco products and its adverse impact on the health status of millions of people across the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has formulated and adopted a protocol in the year 2012 to eliminate all forms of illicit trade including smuggling and illegal manufacturing. [6] However, at least 40 nations should ratify to this protocol for it to become an international law. [6] This illicit trade protocol targets to augment the safety of the supply chain of tobacco products by establishing a global tracking and tracing regime (including national and regional tracking and tracing systems); the issue of licenses; streamlining the records; regulation of sale of tobacco products through internet; defining the offences and their punishments; ensuring safe disposal of confiscated products; and promoting international cooperation through information sharing, technical, and administrative assistance. [5],[6]

However, in order to ensure sustained results it is crucial that program managers should realize that apart from the health consequences, illicit tobacco market plays a significant role in financing criminal activities (like drugs, human and arms trafficking, terrorism, etc.), and hence they should ratify the protocol at the earliest. [5],[6] In addition, there is a definitive need to involve the members of the community. [5] This can be achieved by taking measures to increase the awareness about adverse effects of tobacco, especially among the high-risk groups, and by demonstrating the impact of illicit tobacco trade on their lives and the range of benefits which the tobacco industry is drawing from the same. [3],[4],[6] Further, as many aspects of illegal trade remain unexplored, researchers should plan to understand the different aspects of illicit trade of tobacco products, so that findings of these studies can be utilized in customizing the international policies. [2],[4]

In conclusion, owing to the global scope and multifaceted nature of the illicit tobacco trade, there is an immense need to implement a comprehensive protocol worldwide to ensure a strong response to counter the menace of the illicit tobacco market.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



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McNeill A, Iringe-Koko B, Bains M, Bauld L, Siggens G, Russell A. Countering the demand for, and supply of, illicit tobacco: An assessment of the ′North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health′ Programme. Tob Control 2014;23:e44-50.
World Health Organization. World No Tobacco Day 2015: Stop illicit trade of tobacco products; 2015. Available from: . [Last accessed on 2015 May 5].
World Health Organization. The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products: An Overview. Geneva: WHO Press; 2013. p. 1-13.
Joossens L, Raw M. From cigarette smuggling to illicit tobacco trade. Tob Control 2012;21:230-4.

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.177384

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