Frank O’Connell: “By postponing the research, the countries that have ratified the ITP have agreed that duty free is not a priority for them because it is not a source of illicit trade.”

INTERNATIONAL. In a big boost to the industry, signatories of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP) have agreed to postpone carrying out research into “the extent to which duty free contributes to the illicit trade of tobacco products”.

Earlier proposals from the WHO Secretariat had suggested that the research should start immediately. Article 13.2 of the ITP states that this research must take place within five years of the Protocol entering into force – which happened in September.

At the first official WHO meeting of the countries (Meeting of the Parties) that have ratified the ITP, the 48 countries agreed that the WHO should produce a roadmap for the duty free issue in November 2020.

The decision taken yesterday is in line with the policy and approach of the Duty Free World Council (DFWC) and the regional duty free associations. Over the last year the associations have worked with governments and customs authorities to explain that duty free retail is one of the most tightly controlled channels in the world.

In the years ahead, the Protocol will be implemented across the world. According to the DFWC, the provisions in it, such as track and trace, will allow the industry to show that the channel is not being abused for criminal purposes.

DFWC President Frank O’Connell said: “This decision is to be welcomed by the duty free industry worldwide. The purpose of this Protocol is to tackle the illicit trade in tobacco products. By postponing the research, the countries that have ratified the ITP have agreed that duty free is not a priority for them because it is not a source of illicit trade.

“Over the coming years, the implementation of the Illicit Trade Protocol will bring changes to how tobacco is distributed across the globe. We are confident that we will show how tightly controlled our duty free industry actually is.”