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Operation EXIT to combat illicit trade


Oct 29, 2021 02:18:02 PM

Operation EXIT to combat illicit trade A joint operation by the Oceania Customs Organisation and the World Health Organization code named “Operation EXIT” is expected to provide insights into how the Pacific region can combat the illicit trade of tobacco.

During the operation, participating countries will strengthen their targeting and profiling efforts on suspicious trade, identify the modus operandi of the traders of illicit tobacco and share this information for a regional data base.

Papua New Guinea Chief Commissioner of Customs, David Towe during his opening remarks at the launch of Operation EXIT said tobacco is a globally traded community that attracts a lot of taxes and because of the nature of the product- the trade of illicit tobacco is a very lucrative business and we all need to work together.

He said illicit tobacco, contrabands, and counterfeits were a major concern for his administration in PNG.

In recent years, the illicit trade of tobacco products in the Pacific has increased.

 The most common form of illicit trade in the Pacific is the import of tobacco products not adherent to domestic tobacco control laws hence these being smuggled into countries under the guise of legitimate trade or even by exchange at high seas from the mothership to local vessels.

According to WHO, tobacco usage is an epidemic, a silent killer with 8 million people dying every year, of which 1.2 million were non-smokers, who had never chosen the habit but have been affected.

As this affects economies and the environment, Customs administrations have an obligation under the WHO Framework the Convention on Tobacco Control.

OCO Head of Secretariat Richard Brennan said this was a concern for all Customs administrations as the trade of illicit tobacco not only eroded the revenue base for countries, but it also caused severe health effects.

“Customs has its obligation towards ensuring collection of rightful government revenues and protecting public health and safety.”

“For several years, OCO members have discussed strategies on combatting illicit tobacco trade and individual countries have been undertaking their own national enforcement initiatives,” he said.

 “However, we wish to further strengthen the ability of our members to prevent illicit trade of tobacco products across the Pacific; therefore, a regional approach is necessary.”

“The development of a regional database would create a source of information for all members to assist them in strengthening their profiling capacity.”

By Reginald Chandar


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