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12 Nations Sign UN Treaty To Curb Illegal Tobacco Trade

Thursday, twelve nations have signed a new United Nations treaty aimed at curbing the illegal tobacco trade that undermines regulation policies and represents a burden for health care systems across the world.

The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was signed by representatives from China, France, Gabon, Libya, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, South Korea, South Africa, Syria, Turkey and Uruguay during a ceremony held at the headquarters of UN's World Health Organization in Geneva.

"The protocol gives the world a unique legal instrument for countering and eventually eliminating a sophisticated international criminal activity that costs a lot, especially for health," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan noted during the signing ceremony.

The new Protocol aims to help protect people across the globe from the health risks of tobacco, which kills nearly six million people every year. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, which accounts for one in every 10 adult deaths.

The treaty calls for combating the illegal trade in tobacco products through international cooperation and controlling of the supply chain. As a key measure to achieve this objective, signatories of the treaty are required to establish a global tracking and tracing system to reduce and eventually eradicate the illicit trade in tobacco products.

"The adoption of the Protocol is the result of close cooperation between multiple sectors of government," said Haik Nikogosian, the Head of the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

"It also shows how a unified stand on a public health subject can benefit important government objectives on health and beyond, such as protecting revenues and countering criminal activities," he added.

The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was adopted at the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO FCTC on November 12, 2012, in the South Korean capital city of Seoul.

WHO announced Thursday that the Protocol will remain open for signature at UN Headquarters in New York until January 9, 2014. It added that the treaty will enter into force 90 days after the 40th Party has ratified it.

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