I would like to dedicate my post to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) protocol, and why all European countries should ratify it as soon as possible, or in other words – “why it’s good”:
What is FCTC
The FCTC protocol is an international treaty that specifically addresses the issues of illicit tobacco trade. The protocol has already be adopted by France. The protocol’s purpose is to set ground rules for establishing a multi-national system that would fight illegal tobacco sales all over the world. Such a system stands on two “legs”:
The first is a technological solution to provide EVERY national authority with VITAL information to pinpoint the breaches in the supply chain, in order to tackle smugglers and fraudsters. The second is providing a mutual “legal framework” to enable smooth collaboration between different authorities and countries, and to ensure effective regulations.
Even from a broader international perspective (i.e. unrelated to tobacco issues whatsoever), the protocol is comprehensive and inspirational in terms of the thought invested into providing a balanced and scalable solution to a global problem. I’m sure that when considering collaborations in the fields of global warming, human trafficking, etc. – this protocol sets a good example.
The FCTC protocol’s solution is based on the mutual work done by several parties back-to-back in a transparent process, in which crucial information is being shared around the clock. These parties are regulators, customs, local and international police forces, etc. One of the protocol’s fundamental principles is that the tobacco industry is NOT one of these parties. They are not the “enemy”, and they are not necessarily the problem – but they CANNOT be viewed as part of the solution. At least not by a protocol that is obligated to reduce illegal tobacco trade and promote public health on a global scale.
FCTC in Depth
When it comes to tracking and tracing, ARTICLE 8 of the protocol sets a very clear technical standard regarding the information that needs to be provided by the system. In addition to “trivial” details (such as product description, manufacturer details and time of production), PARAGRAPH 4.1-4.3 states that each product MUST be marked with information about SHIPPING details and the FIRST CUSTOMER (i.e. the first party that is not the manufacturer).
This information is critical to tracing the exact path of diverted products, and to fully understanding how genuine products end up on markets where they are not authorized to be sold, or how a counterfeit products receive “real” credentials… As you remember, this is the information which is NOT PROVIDED BY CODENTIFY. When crosschecking a Codentify-marked illicit product – it does not reference the hierarchy of boxes and shipments, and most definitely has no information regarding the market it is destined to reach.
ARTICLE 8 also sets in its last 3 paragraphs the accepted relationship with the tobacco industry in the field of tracking and tracing – PARAGRAPH 12 states that NO track & trace obligations should be performed by or delegated to the industry. Moreover, PARAGRAPH 13 also emphasizes that ANY connection between protocol parties and the industry should ONLY be allowed in order to efficiently regulate the manufacturing process. Finally, PARAGRAPH 14 gives the protocol parties the necessary legal protection from the industry – by stating that the industry would bear the cost of adjusting itself to illicit trade regulations.
There is a clear reason why the relations between the industry and regulators is established in this way, and it implies that the exact “counter attacks” made by the industry – at first by providing a self-regulation solution (Codentify), then by donations to INTERPOL and other authorities in order to “fight illicit trade”, and later by arguing that choosing other solutions would cost governments a fortune.
The first paragraph of ARTICLE 10 that deals with security measures, also touches a very important issue that I’ve raised before on the blog, and it is the prevention (and regulation) of overproduction by the tobacco manufacturers. PARAGRAPH 1.b states that the amount of “licenses” that a factory receives should be proportional to the size of the intended market. Something that Codentify not only doesn’t provide, but overlooks by design.
ARTICLES 20-24 describe in various ways the proposed collaboration between protocol parties in terms of transparent information sharing on the one hand, and securing confidential information on the other hand. Excluding the tobacco industry from this “information pool” (and definitely not allowing it to control it) is a key element in order to make it work. First, because the flow of the more tactical information I’ve described earlier is exactly what provides the authorities with more efficient “clues” to stop smugglers and counterfeiters. Second, because law enforcement agencies’ restricted information should not be used for the commercial interests of any company, and most definitely not by Big Tobacco.
Bottom line, I advise you to read the full protocol here:
(Or at least the short summarized version here):
and form your own opinion on the matter. You know mine