International pact sought on cigarette smuggling

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - Delegates from more than 150 countries met Monday to push for a wide-ranging pact to curb the booming trade in cigarette smuggling.

The week-long conference in Geneva is being held under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates 5 million people die each year from diseases related to smoking.

“Illicit trade in tobacco products contributes to the rise in tobacco consumption and poses a serious threat to health,” the WHO said.

By making cigarettes available at prices two to three times lower than in the shops, smugglers threaten to undermine global efforts to reduce smoking and save lives, WHO officials say.

Governments and police officials say that as well as putting huge amounts of cash into the pockets of dishonest businessmen, the large-scale business also helps finance organized crime.

The draft text under discussion this week — in the form of a protocol to the WHO’s 2004 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which has been ratified by 157 countries — underlined this danger for global law and order.

The illegal cigarette trade, it says, “generates huge financial profits funding transnational criminal activity which penetrates, contaminates and corrupts government objectives and legitimate commercial and financial businesses at all levels.”

The U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists told a news briefing some cigarettes were now being manufactured in the former Soviet Union solely for smuggling, describing them as “the first ever designed-for-crime brand.”  Continued…

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