World No Tobacco Day: Stop illicit trade


WHO has launched the “Illicit Trade Protocol” in order to eliminate all forms of illicit tobacco trades.

This year, World No Tobacco Day falls on Sunday 31st May. The World Health Organisation use this opportunity every year to remind the global population of the serious health risks associated with smoking.

WHO’s key message is not only to remind people of the risks of smoking, but also that in order to tackle the tobacco battle, the illicit trade industry must be stopped. The growth of illicit trade is allowing criminal groups to prosper and extend their illegal businesses thanks to the money made on illegal tobacco products.

Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year, including 600 000 people killed by the effects of second-hand smokers. The number of illicit tobacco products being sold is on the rise, and thus is contributing to the global problem.

What are the goals for this year’s campaign?

  • By committing to fighting the global tobacco epidemic, the World Health Organization campaign aims at raising awareness on the harm of tobacco to people’s health.
  • Raise awareness of the illicit tobacco trade and what it means for the economic and social well being of all involved.
  • Demonstrate how all the gains made to fight tobacco addiction, i.e. tobacco control policies, governmental programmes, the increase of tax on tobacco products and all other measures are now being undermined by the illicit trade of the products.

WHO has launched the “Illicit Trade Protocol” in order to eliminate all forms of illicit tobacco trades. To become an international law, the protocol has to be ratified by at least 40 countries. This year, WHO are rallying countries across the globe to come together in a bid to tackle the issue of the illicit trade of tobacco products. The reason for this focus lies in the fact that one in ten cigarettes consumed globally is linked in some way to the illicit trade market. This has become an increasing concern not only in terms of general health but also in regards to legislation.

What does “illicit trade” mean?

Illicit, or illegal trade, is the export, import, production, selling or possession of any “tobacco product” that does not comply with the legislation of the country. The forms of trade fall into three categories:

  • Contraband – This covers any genuine tobacco product that has been smuggled into a country from abroad. The idea is that the product is being sold outside of the intended market of retail sale, meaning they can avoid paying for domestic taxes.
  • Counterfeit – These are fake products produced under a genuine name and brand, but outside of the company’s knowledge. This means the seller is protected by the intellectual property rights and can avoid paying taxes.
  • Illicit whites – These products are legitimately manufactured under a genuine company but are deliberately sold on the black market in another country, also without domestic duty paid.

The dangers of illicit tobacco trade

WHO warns of the dangers of this growing market, but how does it affect you and your own interests?

  • The illicit tobacco traders can sell the cigarettes more cheaply because they are avoiding the domestic taxes. This means that young people are more likely to be able to afford them.
  • The counterfeit products are manufactured with no health warnings on the packaging, which have proven to be an effective tool to help people to quit. The lack of such message is also misleading young smokers who remain ignorant to the dangers.
  • Government is missing out on vital tax revenue which could otherwise have been spent on further anti-smoking campaigns, help centres and other such aids.