INTERNATIONAL. The Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products will come into force in September, the Duty Free World Council (DFWC) has confirmed. The requirement for 40 countries to ratify the Protocol has been met and the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOP1) will take place this October in Geneva.

Frank O’Connell: “There is no justification in penalising legitimate law-abiding retailers, brands, airports and the maritime trade under the pretext of illicit trade.”

The DFWC said it was keen to identify solutions for the duty free channel to meet the objectives of the Protocol, after it was confirmed that the provisions would apply equally to duty free as to other retail channels.

However, noted the DFWC, the Protocol also mandates for research to be carried out within five years into “the extent to which” duty free contributes to illicit trade in tobacco products. The DFWC said: “The WHO’s starting assumption therefore is that duty free is a source of illicit trade. The DFWC has been leading a global campaign together with the other regional associations to communicate to governments of Parties to the Protocol that the industry vigorously rejects any claims that duty free tobacco sales contribute to illicit trade.”

DFWC President Frank O’Connell said: “We refute completely any allegations that the duty free industry is complicit in illicit trade. There is no justification in penalising legitimate law-abiding retailers, brands, airports and the maritime trade under the pretext of illicit trade.”

The duty free industry also maintains that any research should not take place until all the measures of the Protocol have been put in place, that all signatory countries are aligned on the methodology of the study and that it must be carried out in a fair and objective manner with full industry participation.

The DFWC noted that duty free tobacco sales are frequently confused with other trade channels. It repeated the key message that duty free is not “duty not paid” sales, “cross-border trade” or “free zone” sales. “Duty free is a highly regulated retail environment that takes place at airports, ports, in-flight and onboard ferries and at land border shops, overseen by national customs authorities,” the Council noted.

As reported, in March the DFWC updated media on its latest initiatives and on the Protocol. Click here for that story.