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In 2011 INTERPOL, the world's largest police organisation, accepted a donation from Philip Morris International (PMI) of €15 million,1 ,2 an 8% increase to its total annual budget (€60 million in 2011) for each of the next 3 years.3 Its 2011 budget was €60 million, of which 84% was contributed by member countries. With only 13% of INTERPOL's total income coming from externally funded projects, private foundations and/or commercial enterprises, this represents a substantial donation.3
Shortly afterwards, in July 2012, INTERPOL announced the creation of the INTERPOL Global Register (IGR)4 which, focusing on products under threat from illicit trade,5 aims to provide tools to help law enforcement and the public determine a product's authenticity. INTERPOL simultaneously stated it would be working with British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG), Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and PMI (specifically with their Digital Coding and Tracking Association—see below) to make the tobacco industry's supply chain control system, Codentify (see below), accessible via the IGR.4
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control's (FCTC) Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP) was adopted in November 2012 following negotiations over a 4-year period. This protocol puts technological solutions to the global illicit tobacco trade, most notably a global track and trace system, at the heart of efforts to address the illicit tobacco trade.6 The tobacco industry's successful negotiation of a deal with an intergovernmental agency such as INTERPOL and its attempt to promote its own tracking and tracing system at this time therefore raises obvious concerns, not least because of overwhelming evidence of the tobacco industry's complicity in global cigarette smuggling on both a historical and current basis.7–12 This article aims to explain the background to the current situation, to critically examine the tobacco industry's Codentify system that the INTERPOL deal seeks …