ETRC issues rallying cry against proposed tobacco ban

The duty-free group has urged the industry to contact governments in the final days before talks begin on the World Health Organization illicit trade protocol

The European Travel Retail Council (ETRC) has issued a final rallying call for the duty-free industry to contact governments in the days leading up to the third round of negotiations on the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) protocol on illicit trade that threatens a ban on the sale and import of duty-free tobacco products. ETRC secretary general Keith Spinks asked companies “to make a final round of intensive contacts”, particularly in countries “where political engagement has been difficult or where there is still no clear indication from governments on their policy on duty-free sales”.

Proposals for the prohibition of duty-free tobacco sales were initially tabled at the second negotiating session in October 2008, but ETRC and other global industry stakeholders have since lobbied the relevant authorities to refute allegations that duty-free sales at airports, on board airlines and in border shops contribute to illicit trade, succeeding in changing the draft text of the protocol to remove an outright ban on tobacco sales to travellers.

Tobacco control activists including the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) have now published their positions in advance of the third round of negotiations calling for the inclusion of a new article specifically to ban duty-free tobacco sales to international travellers, as well as condemning the duty-free trade association’s efforts to prevent such a prohibition from being implemented.

Spinks said that “ETRC makes no apology for defending our business and will continue to vigorously support the rights of legitimate duty-free operators”, adding that FCA used misleading arguments about “growing government and international action on the [duty-free] issue” as justification for a ban.

“The purpose of this protocol is to combat illicit trade, nothing else. The duty-free industry is not involved in illicit trade so therefore should not be subject to any ban from this protocol”, Spinks added. “A worldwide ban on duty-free tobacco sales to international passengers will have no impact whatsoever on illicit trade and the criminal elements that control the illegal tobacco market.”


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