New research, published this morning in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control and covered exclusively by The Guardian from Bath academics, cites evidence that the tobacco industry has sought to control anti-smuggling measures, which, according to international protocol, should be free from industry influence.

The Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP), which the study focuses on, requires a global track and trace system to reduce tobacco smuggling. Given the tobacco industry’s historical involvement in tobacco smuggling, it stipulates that track and trace ‘shall not be performed by or delegated to the tobacco industry.’ The new paper explores the rationale for and nature of the tobacco industry’s efforts to influence the ITP and its track and trace system.

Authored by Professor Anna Gilmore with Andy Rowell and Allen Gallagher from our Department for Health, it draws on analysis of leaked tobacco industry documents and publicly available data, as well as investigation of front groups, trademark and patent ownership.

It finds growing and diverse sources of evidence indicating that the tobacco industry remains involved in tobacco smuggling and that tobacco industry cigarettes account for around two-thirds of the illicit cigarette market. It highlights how the major tobacco companies have developed their own track and trace system, 'Codentify', lobbying governments around the world to see it adopted as the global track and trace system of choice.

The authors suggest that in order to bolster support for their system and enhance credibility, Big Tobacco created front groups, paid for misleading data and reports and poured funding into organisations meant to hold it to account and into initiatives that would curry favour.

They conclude that ‘governments should assume the tobacco industry seeks to control track and trace systems in order to avoid scrutiny and minimise excise tax payments and that any track and trace system based on Codentify or being promoted or implemented by companies with tobacco industry links, is incompatible with the ITP and would not serve to reduce illicit trade.’

Read the exclusive coverage of the story in The Guardian.