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Trade body challenges EU tribunal ruling on tobacco laws

18 July 2019

An international trade association has lodged an appeal against the European Union Court of Justice’s (EUCJ) decision to dismiss its legal claims surrounding the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).

Specifically, the claims by the International Tax Stamp Association (ITSA) relate to the non-compliance of the TPD implementing regulation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products (FCTC Protocol).

In 2018 ITSA launched a legal challenge at the EUCJ, claiming that the TPD implementing regulation for traceability and security features does not conform with the FCTC Protocol.

The key reason for the challenge is ITSA’s belief that the TPD implementing regulation contravenes the FCTC Protocol’s Article 8, which requires that a track and trace system shall be under the control of the government and that duties shall not be performed by or delegated to the tobacco industry.

However, in May 2019 the EUCJ dismissed the claims on the grounds that ITSA could not challenge the EU track and trace system because it did not have “a direct interest” in the TPD implementing regulation.

Now ITSA has confirmed it will appeal against the decision, shedding light on the EUCJ’s “misunderstanding of certain basic facts”.

Nicola Sudan, General Secretary of ITSA, said: “We believe that an association constituted by entities historically involved in the implementation of anti-illicit trade technologies, notably for tobacco products in the EU, does indeed have a direct interest in the matter and therefore should be entitled to discuss it before the highest legal European institution.     

“The EUCJ appears to have confused the track and trace systems deployed by ITSA’s independent members with the tobacco industry’s Codentify solution, which is largely under the control of the major tobacco companies. We are concerned that the European Commission has conceived and is promoting an EU track and trace system based on a governance model that unnecessarily entrusts core functions to the tobacco industry itself. This is at odds with the basic principles of the WHO Protocol, which limit the need for industry involvement to the extent strictly necessary and, essentially, prohibit the tobacco industry from influencing public policy.

“In addition, the EU track and trace system does not provide for strong authentication tools to counter illicit tobacco trade and does not allow for a completely interoperable track and trace system based on established international standards and best practice. Our aim is to uphold the adoption of international technical standards to harmonise anti-illicit trade technologies and promote best practices, including ISO 22382*, which provides valuable guidance on the development of and specifications for excise tax stamps.

“We hope that the EUCJ reconsiders its stance towards the admissibility of our claim and takes a closer look at the type of track and trace systems being applied under the TPD implementing regulation.”

More than 150 revenue agencies (national and state governments) globally use tax stamps to collect valuable tax duties and excise payments, involving the worldwide production of some 140 billion stamps annually. As well as providing visible proof of tax payment and revenue collection, tax stamps have also taken on product authentication, anti-tampering and track and trace applications.

*For more information on the ISO 22382 standard, visit:

A previous ITSA statement on the EU TPD can be found at:


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