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20th of April 2014
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World Health Organisation - FCTC

Created on 2nd of November 2005   Last Modified on the 18th of April 2013

In conjunction with other sectors of the trade, the UKTRF successfully lobbied against the World Health Organisation's proposal for a mandatory ban on duty-free sales of tobacco products as part of its Framework Convention on Tobacco Controls (FCTC). Had the ban been implemented, UK operators alone would collectively have lost sales of over ?100 million per annum, plus a further consequential loss from the reduced footfall in duty-free outlets. Nevertheless duty-free sales of tobacco products remain under threat in a number of countries throughout the world.

In early 2001 the WHO commenced negotiations on a major new treaty - the Framework Convention on Tobacco Controls. One of the measures proposed was a mandatory ban on the duty-free sale of tobacco products. The UKTRF persuaded the UK Government to oppose a mandatory ban, on the basis that duty-free represented less than 1% of worldwide tobacco sales, and a complete ban was therefore a disproportionate measure. Similar lobbying was undertaken by the ITRC (now ETRC) in Europe and by IAADFS in America, and by many of our sister organisations in other EU states. After two years of intense negotiations, the FCTC Treaty was agreed by the WHO in May 2003 and came into effect in February 2005; the final text includes a provision that signatories may take action to restrict or prohibit sales or personal imports of duty-free tobacco products, but this is not obligatory.

As countries throughout the world go through the process of signing, and ratifying the FCTC Treaty, there is continued pressure for action against duty-free from both the WHO, and other anti-tobacco interests. Through the ETRC, we will continue to defend the business wherever possible.

A further global threat to duty-free sales of tobacco has also now emerged. In 2007, the WHO established an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body, comprising delegations from all countries that have ratified the FCTC, to develop the text of a Protocol, or supplementary treaty, on necessary action to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products. The second meeting of the INB (INB2) was held in Geneva in October 2008 where a number of tobacco control activists lobbied for the inclusion of an outright ban on duty-free tobacco, based on the spurious allegation that duty-free sales contribute to illicit trade. Representatives of the duty-free trade across the world duly contacted their Governments to refute this unfounded allegation; at the INB3 meeting in Geneva in July 2009, the proposal for a ban on duty-free was discussed but could not be agreed because of opposition from a number of delegations, in particular that of the EU.

The proposal for a ban on world-wide duty-free sales of tobacco was due to be considered again at the next INB meeting, INB4, held in March 2010 but it was not discussed because of insufficient time. It is likely that it will now be considered at a possible INB5 meeting, either in May 2011 or February 2012. The UKTRF and it counterparts across the world will continue to vigoriously oppose such a move, which is without any justification.

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