This research paper in the British Medical Journal examines the tobacco industry’s attempts to control global tracking and tracing to undermine the Illicit Trade Protocol, a system set up by WHO to prevent illicit trade in tobacco. The authors find growing and diverse sources of evidence indicating that the industry is involved in tobacco smuggling, accounting for about two-thirds of the illicit cigarette market. At the same time, the tobacco industry is also aiming to control those global systems aimed at curtailing illicit trade:
- Philip Morris International adapted its own pack marker system, Codentify, to meet tracking and tracing requirements, licensed it for free to its three major competitors who have, in turn, promoted it to governments using front groups and third parties, including companies claiming to be independent.
- In Africa, British American Tobacco used payments to obtain data suggesting smaller competitor companies were evading taxes, securing influence with tax authorities.
- Industry efforts have been enhanced by a public relations effort involving funding for conferences, training, research, and international police and anti-corruption organizations.
- Collectively these measures have created a powerful network of organizations supportive of the tobacco industry’s misleading position on illicit trade.