First meeting of the Working Group on tracking and tracing systems, including the global information-sharing focal point and the unique identification markings for cigarette packets and packages

Opening address by the Head of the Convention Secretariat

Dear dr. Luis Francisco Sucre Mejía ,

Vice-Minister of Health of Panama and through him great and thank Dr Rosaría Turner, minister of Health of Panama for hosting us,

Dear dr. Nadja Porcell Iglesias, Director General for Public Health, Ministry of Health of Panama,

Dear Key Facilitators of the Working Group,

Distinguished delegates,

Dear colleagues and friends from the international intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations,

Dear friends from nongovernmental organizations,

Distinguished members of the Working Group,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the first meeting of the Working Group on tracking and tracing systems, including the global information sharing focal point and unique identification markings for cigarette packets and packages.

First of all, I would like to thank the Government of Panama, and especially her excellency dr. Turner, Minister of Health of Panama, for so graciously hosting us in this beautiful city and location.

Panama has been one of the brightest stars in the tobacco control sky with so many best practices to share with the world. It has also been a very supportive partner to the WHO FCTC Secretariat over the years and I am very happy to see a dear colleague and friend, dr. Reina Roa in the room here today; Bureau member for the Americas for the Conference of the Parties and a great force in global tobacco control. Thank you, Reina, for all your efforts and for granting to the next generations of public heal advocates an example of leadership and commitment.

Many thanks should also be extended to the team of the Panamerican Health Organization/WHO country office in Panama through its representative Dr Gerardo Alfaro Canton for the invaluable support in organizing this meeting.

Dear delegates, it is truly an honor to be part of another historical milestone after the entry into force of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products in September last year. After celebrating the first session of the Meeting of the Parties, it is now time to start discussions in the very first session of the very first working group established by the MOP.

The implementation of Protocol obligations requires the involvement of several government agencies that go beyond the health sector and include customs, finance and law enforcement. I am very pleased to see many delegates from these sectors attending this working group and we are looking forward to a very fruitful cooperation in the years to come.

The coming two and a half days we will focus our discussions on, as some might say, one of the core articles of the Protocol: Article eight on tracking and tracing. This article with its timebound measures, demands both immediate action from the Parties to the Protocol, as well as from the Convention Secretariat.

Article 8.1 requires us all to cooperate in the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime and, furthermore, the establishment of a global information-sharing focal point, located at the Convention Secretariat. Since the entry into force of the Protocol in September last year, we only have four years left to develop and establish this global regime and to establish the GISFP within the Secretariat.

I therefore look forward to receive your guidance on the next steps in collecting your experiences with tracking and tracing, your questions, your concerns and your examples and practices in the implementation of such systems and of the unique identification markings.

Furthermore, on the GISFP, we will use the coming days to discuss the elements of the conceptual analysis of such an instrument, how it should function, how we should protect its confidentiality and integrity and how it should be used in the most optimal way.

Tracking and tracing systems for tobacco products are an essential part of our common efforts to eliminate illicit trade; however, we should also stay careful and vigilant.

The tobacco industry uses the illicit trade argument to oppose tobacco control regulations with regards to taxes and prices increases, plain packaging and tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship. The industry likes to create a wrong perception to governments that every example of such action will generate illicit trade.

Furthermore, the industry pretends to be part of the solution. The industry has developed and promoted its own tracking and tracing mechanism, Codentify or Inexto, that is far less transparent than the tool required by the Protocol.

The Convention Secretariat is present here and, in the future, to support your efforts with regards to the implementation of the Protocol.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations.

Thank you very much.