Nations Join Forces on Tobacco Trade
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Negotiators from nearly 150 countries and the tobacco industry met at the United Nations ( news - web sites) Tuesday to work out a treaty halting the illicit tobacco trade linked to organized crime and terrorism.
The three-day conference is being held under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Dr. Derek Yach, the executive director of the World Health Organization ( news - web sites), said about 20 billion cigarette packs are smuggled every year, cheating governments of $25 billion-$30 billion in revenues.
"Tobacco smuggling undermines national pricing policies, deprives governments of revenues used to combat smoking, permits tobacco companies to subvert and undermine international cooperation in tobacco control and above all, undermines legal restrictions and health regulations such as those that deal with health warnings and sales to minors," Yach said.
ATF Director Bradley Buckles said the illegal tobacco trade "provides fuel to organized crime and terrorist activities."
He recalled a recent case in North Carolina where a man was convicted in connection with a cigarette smuggling scheme "to provide money and supplies in support of the Hezbollah." The Lebanese-based organization carries out attacks against Israel and is on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told negotiators that cigarette price discrepancies among different states "has attracted traditional organized crime groups and more recently, individuals with suspected links to terrorist organizations."
"International boundaries do not provide the safeguards against smuggling that they may have in the past and organized crime is poised to take advantage of the eagerness of nations to break down the barriers that separate us," Kelly said.
Views on a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are varied among negotiators, especially those from tobacco-producing countries. But the United States strongly supports the idea of a treaty, the ATF said.