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“The Commission considers that the combination of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products negotiated in the context of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) are the best instruments to fight illicit trade by regulatory means,” said Budget Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva last May.

Member states are arguing that the complexity of this system will pose an unnecessary administrative burden on them.
The European Commission’s (EC), proposal for this track and trace system is in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) provisions, and it gives control of the cigarette trade to the member states, rather than to the tobacco industry.

However during a public consultation pertaining to the track and trace system which closed on October 2nd, a number of member states including France, Germany and Italy criticized the proposal. They argued that it will be costly, and its complexity will pose an unnecessary administrative burden on the member states.

Independent third parties as ID issuers

With regards to the unique marking that shall be placed on packaging, the EC said “a proper assignment of roles in relation to the marking of packages with a unique identifier is essential”. These ID issuers should be independent third parties appointed by the member states.

The EC is insisting that this protocol places the control in the hands of the member states rather than leaving it with the tobacco industry, however it also requires a certain amount of dialogue and division of responsibilities between the two.
However, critics of this system are arguing that the criteria for issuing these unique identifiers are not based on open standards, hence will there will be a limited interoperability with third countries.

“This is all the more important as 86% of illegal cigarettes come from third countries (such as Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey). These products will still enter the European market under the radar of the track and trace system,” said an industry source.

Additionally, many are arguing that independence from the tobacco industry which naturally both the WHO FCTC and the Protocol of Illicit Trade, are insisting on, is going to prove difficult.

“Proof exists that many third parties, which could at first glance appear as ‘independent’, have indeed been linked to or influenced at some level by the tobacco industry,” said French MEP Françoise Grossetête.

Dialogue between member states and the tobacco industry still required

The EC is insisting that this protocol places the control of the system in the hands of the member states rather than  leaving it with the tobacco industry, however it also requires a certain amount of dialogue and division of responsibilities between the two.

“Full compliance with the requirements of the Protocol – in particular the requirement for control of the system to be in the hands of the authorities (and not the tobacco industry) – has from the outset been a top priority for the Commission, and we are fully confident that the draft proposals achieve this,” EU official

“Full compliance with the requirements of the Protocol – in particular the requirement for control of the system to be in the hands of the authorities (and not the tobacco industry) – has from the outset been a top priority for the Commission, and we are fully confident that the draft proposals achieve this,” said an EU official.

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