The status of the tracking and tracing system required under the WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products
Wednesday, 02 August 2023
SFP's Senior Advisor Luk Joosens assesses the implementation of the tracking and tracing system in countries party to the WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
The objective of the WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (Protocol) is the elimination of all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products. The Protocol aims to secure the supply chain of tobacco products through a series of government measures. It requires the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime by September 2023. There were 67 parties to the Protocol by 31 May 2023. 28 Parties to the Protocol are high-income, 15 are upper-middle income,14 are lower-middle income and 10 are low-income. Information on the characteristics of existing tracking and tracing systems among many Parties remains limited. More knowledge and evaluation of the actual systems could result in identifying best practices and facilitate the establishment of tracking and tracing systems in new Parties. We estimate that there are thirty-seven existing track and trace systems among Parties: 20 Parties have a system based on the EU regulations, 10 on tax stamp regimes and 7 on other characteristics. Different forms of tobacco industry interference remain high among Parties. Low and middle-income countries struggle with the implementation of the Protocol obligations and the establishment of the tracking and tracing provisions. A global tracking and tracing regime, compromising national and/or regional tracking and tracing systems, might help to secure the supply chain and assist in the investigation of illicit tobacco trade, if enough Parties have a tracking and tracing system, covering all the obligations of the Protocol, based on robust data, without tobacco industry interference, access to the unique identifiers outside the jurisdiction and mutual recognizable data.
In practice, this means there is still a need for:
a) More technical assistance and financial resources to set up tracking and tracing systems in low and middle-income countries. (including software from independent sources to generate unique identifiers)
b) Expansion of some tracking and tracing systems to cover exported products (including transit trade and free zones)
c) More international standards for data formatting and exchange of data communication to guarantee interoperability
d) No direct or indirect involvement of the tobacco industry and its allies in the establishment of the system, software for generation of unique identifiers, access to databases, control mechanisms at the place manufacturing and auditing