The Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have signed a MOU to work together in sharing information and ideas relevant to preventing and eliminating illicit tobacco trade.
The MOU was signed by Mr. Seve Paeniu, Head of OCO Secretariat and Dr. Corrine Capuano, WHO Representative/Director, Pacific Technical Support, WHO Representative in the South Pacific.
The OCO Head of Secretariat, Mr. Paeniu says that demand for illicit tobacco is high and will continue to increase consistent with increasing taxes that many Customs administrations in our region are imposing. Furthermore, organized crime groups are becoming increasingly attracted to tobacco smuggling. So illicit tobacco trade does not only drain the budgets of our governments and feed into organized crime, but it also severely undermines efforts to protect public health.
Law enforcement and border security continues to be an important area of focus for OCO and although members are stepping up efforts to combat illicit activities at different levels, our region because of our porous borders remain prone to illegal trade of tobacco by overseas-based smugglers.
Whilst OCO member countries are making progress in combating illegal trade of tobacco and protecting both public money and public health, there is always more we can do. A coordinated regional response and partnership is necessary to respond to this complex problem. The MOU with WHO provides for collaborations between the two Organisations to fight illicit tobacco trade.
The MOU outlines key joint activities that can be pursued with the WHO and includes information and data sharing, alignment of customs legislation, awareness raising and joint missions to Pacific islands related to eliminating illicit trade in tobacco products as appropriate. It is envisaged that these collaborative efforts will provide OCO members with the necessary tools, information and capacity needed to tackle illicit trade.
“The OCO and its 23 members stand ready to cooperate with WHO combating illegal tobacco trade at border and also to protect our Government revenue and consumer health,” concluded Mr. Paeniu.