APIA, SAMOA – THURSDAY 19 OCTOBER 2017: The Ministry of Health yesterday conducted a stakeholders’ consultation on the Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products. Illicit trade poses a serious threat to public health because it increases access to – often cheaper – tobacco products, thus fuelling the tobacco epidemic and undermining tobacco control policies.
The Protocol is an international treaty with the objective of eliminating all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products through a package of measures to be taken by countries acting in co-operation with each other. It is a global solution to a global problem.
In the interest of protecting public health and eliminating the illicit trade of tobacco products, there is a need to have in place resilient and effective response mechanisms such as national laws, policies and multi- sectoral collaboration intervention that result in decisive action to stop illicit trade from the market.
The Ministry of Health emphasises however that Samoa has a primary legal responsibility for ensuring the public is protected from the harmful constituents of tobacco products through the elimination of illicit trade of tobacco products. The ultimate aim is to reduce the accessibility and affordability of tobacco products.
To prevent illegal trade, the Protocol aims to make the supply chain of tobacco products secure through a series of measures by governments. It requires the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime within five years of entry into force of the Protocol. Other provisions to ensure control of the supply chain include but not limited to:
- record keeping requirements; and
regulation of internet-sales, duty-free sales and international transit.
The public health implications are significant, ranging from lowering the rates of chronic diseases to saving considerable funds that would otherwise have been spent on improved health care.
Substantive evidence indicates that smoking kills, with the latest estimates of six million deaths annually. Combating this major threat to public health requires a comprehensive effort on tobacco control, with the elimination of the illicit trade recognized as an integral element of national and international strategies.
The availability of cheap, illicit cigarettes increases consumption and thus future tobacco-related deaths. Consumption falls if the illicit trade is eliminated because in most countries, illicit cigarettes are much cheaper than their legal, fully taxed equivalent.
The Ministry of Health requests for a co-operative relationship amongst public health officials and relevant government agencies in ensuring our national measures and laws are effectively implemented and enforced.