Duty free tobacco ‘should not be used as a gambit for WHO ITP policy gains’

By Luke Barras-hill |

DFWC-tobacco-main-2020Duty Free World Council (DFWC) Senior Adviser Keith Spinks has made clear that the pursuit to control illicit trade in tobacco products is not to be used as a justification to target legitimate and law-abiding duty free businesses.

As reported, the industry lobby is once again rebutting strongly the allegation that duty free tobacco contributes to illegitimate trading ahead of the second Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOP2), part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), in The Hague in November.


“The purpose of this Protocol is to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products; it must not be a vehicle for the WHO to achieve other policy objectives such as limiting the availability of legal duty free tobacco sales to legitimate customers,” he told TRBusiness.

“The Duty Free World Council fully supports the aim of eliminating illicit trade in tobacco products. The industry is actively implementing measures set out in the Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP) and indeed, most of these measures are already active industry practices, even without the regulatory requirements of ITP.

“However, the DFWC entirely rejects the implication by the WHO that duty free sales may be a source of international illicit tobacco trade.

“Targeting legitimate responsible retailers, airports, airlines and maritime companies who have been selling duty free tobacco responsibly for decades would have no impact on reducing illicit trade.”

Keith Spinks

Keith Spinks, Senior Advisor to the Duty Free World Council.

The DFWC remains concerned over Article 13.2 of the ITP, which calls for an evidenced-based study ‘into the extent to which duty free contributes to illicit trade’.

“Should it progress in its current form and timetable the DFWC remains concerned it will produce inaccurate and unfair outcomes and cause damage to our industry,” maintained Spinks.

[The lobby argues that any study into duty free should not be carried out until all elements of the protocol, including a global track and trace regime implemented within five years of the ITP entering into force, are in place – Ed].

“It is essential parties to the ITP understand that duty free is a transparent, controlled and legitimate retail channel vital to maintaining and improving transport infrastructure, lowering travel costs, and enhancing the travel experience for consumers.

“The study requested in the Protocol must only be carried out after adequate time is given for already planned changes to the industry to take place. Until then it will be impossible to ascertain if any further policy actions are required. When the study is commenced, it must be carried out with full industry participation in a fair and objective manner.

“The goal of reducing the illicit trade in tobacco products is a good one. Our industry knows well how the illegal sale of any product category can hurt our businesses.

“Parties to the Protocol need to decide whether they share this goal, or whether they will allow the WHO to misuse the process to unfairly attack our industry.”


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