The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) has launched a major nationwide advertising campaign to help fight the scourge of illegal tobacco, while the International Tax Stamp Association (ITSA) has warned about “misalignment” within EU and global traceability and security legislation.
The TMA’s campaign will involve posters being displayed on phone boxes in 50 illegal tobacco hot spots across the UK, so those tempted to either buy or sell cheap illegal tobacco are warned of the consequences. The campaign also encourages those who are aware of illegal tobacco, but don’t buy or sell it themselves, to report any suspicious activity to HM Revenue & Customs who will investigate further.
The campaign will also be appearing at the UK’s busiest port and various airports to remind adults who bring tobacco back from abroad that it is illegal to sell it on without paying UK taxes.
But as EU Member States consider how best to overcome the illicit trade in tobacco products in line with the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), careful attention also needs to be paid to ensure that any measures will also be compliant with the World Health Organisation’s international blueprint for the regulation of tobacco production and distribution, ITSA has warned.
Nicola Sudan, Secretary General of ITSA explained: “There are a number of security and product identification requirements included in the TPD that need to be compliant with the WHO Protocol, which also requires that tracking and tracing obligations should not be delegated to the tobacco industry itself.
“We think it is important that Member States are aware of the potential for misalignment and take the appropriate steps to mitigate the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the TPD, ensuring that their traceability and security systems are in full compliance with the WHO rules.”
To help address the situation ITSA has published new guidance on security and traceability for tobacco products which it has shared with key stakeholders. The document provides advice on how tax stamp programmes can combine the traceability and security feature requirements specified in the TPD technical standards, whilst also providing a fully independent sourcing solution in compliance with the WHO Protocol.
ITSA recommends that all the authentication elements required by the TPD should be provided by a third-party provider and combined with the digital data in the unique identifier (UID) in a multi-layered security bearer, such as a tax stamp. Combining the digital data with authentication features would add important anti-fraud protection assuring the UID cannot be fraudulently duplicated.
The WHO Protocol supports this approach and puts a much stronger emphasis on the need for suppliers of the track and trace control system to be independent of the tobacco industry than is required by the architecture promoted by the TPD.