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U.S. on Sidelines as Nations Launch Negotiations on Treaty to Combat Smuggling, Counterfeiting and Other Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products
Date:2/11/2008

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: Today in Geneva, Switzerland, more than 150 countries will begin negotiations on an historic international treaty to combat smuggling, counterfeiting and other illicit trade in tobacco products -- a global problem that funds organized crime and terrorist organizations, costs governments billions in revenue and undermines efforts to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Unfortunately, the United States will not have a seat at the table in these negotiations despite its significant interests in the outcome. That is because the U.S. has abdicated its leadership in the global fight against tobacco use by failing to ratify the World Health Organization tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The new treaty governing tobacco smuggling and counterfeiting will be negotiated as a critical supplement to the existing tobacco control treaty, which has been ratified by more than 150 nations. The U.S. cannot participate as a full party in the coming negotiations until it ratifies the existing treaty.

By failing to ratify the treaty and not being a party to these negotiations, the U.S. is leaving its own borders more vulnerable and sending a message to the rest of the world that the wealthiest and most powerful nation is failing to address a global tobacco epidemic that kills 5.4 million people worldwide each year.

Cigarettes are the world's most widely smuggled -- but otherwise legal -- consumer product. Experts have estimated that, in 2006, illicit trade accounted for 10.7 percent of global cigarette sales, or about 600 billion cigarettes. The global scope and multifaceted nature of the problem requires a coordinated international response. There are several aspects to the problem:

-- It is a public health problem that undermines nations' efforts to

reduce tobacco use and its growing burden of death, disease and health

care costs. Sellers of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes do not pay

taxes on those products and therefore circumvent tax policies designed

to increase government revenue and reduce tobacco use. WHO has

concluded that raising tobacco taxes is the most effective way to

rapidly reduce tobacco use and increase revenue needed to fund

effective tobacco control programs. Cigarette smuggling and

counterfeiting increases consumption, especially among price-sensitive

young people, by making cigarettes available cheaply. A ten percent

increase on a pack of cigarettes is likely to reduce tobacco

consumption by about four percent in high-income countries and about

eight percent in low- and middle-income countries.

-- It is a law and order problem, and a threat to international security.

There is evidence that tobacco smuggling and counterfeiting is carried

out by transnational criminal groups and has been used to raise funds

for terrorist organizations.

-- It is a financial problem, especially for low and middle-income

countries. The illicit tobacco trade is estimated to cost governments

more than $40 billion (U.S.) annually in tax revenue. This is greater

than the GDPs of two-thirds of the world's countries.

The existing treaty obligates ratifying countries, which now number more than 150, to implement effective measures to reduce tobacco use including: higher tobacco taxes; bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; smoke- free workplaces and public places; and stronger health warnings. The importance of these public health measures was reinforced by a WHO report on the global tobacco control epidemic released just last week.

The upcoming negotiations are critical to global health and global development. The number of deaths from tobacco is projected to rise to more than 8 million by 2030, with more than 70 percent of these deaths in developing nations. By effectively implementing proven tobacco control measures, and negotiating and implementing a strong illicit trade treaty to prevent the undermining of these measures, nations can reverse the tobacco epidemic and save countless lives.

Illicit trade of tobacco products is a transnational problem that will only be solved with leadership and cooperation from many countries. Unfortunately the U.S. will not be a part of the solution unless it decides to take the tobacco epidemic more seriously. Nations have set a goal of completing the illicit trade protocol no later than 2010.

Based in Washington, D.C., the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leader in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences in the United States and around the world. As part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, the Campaign works with governments and non-governmental organizations in promoting and implementing public policies to reduce tobacco use. Visit http://www.tobaccofreecenter.org.

Visit http://www.who.int/tobacco to download WHO's Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008.


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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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