Dentsu says EU tobacco traceability system is on track

An EU-wide tobacco track-and-trace system will have handled 22bn products from 14m facilities and 700,000 supply chain partners by the end of the year, says its developer.

Dentsu Tracking – a subsidiary of Dentsu Aegis that formerly operated as Blue Infinity – provides the central repository for data on tobacco products mandated by the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and says its system makes it possible to “track domestic and transnational sales, as well as products exported outside of the EU.”

The system went live on May 10, just ahead of the official launch of the scheme on May 20 when the first producers in the EU requested and received traceability markings for cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco products. It is expected to be fully implemented across the EU within a year of that date, according to the European Commission.

EU member states are responsible for the establishment of an entity in charge of issuing the new traceability markings, which record the location and date of manufacture, destination of the product and other information as well as giving each pack a unique identity.

Dentsu’s appointment by the European Commission to operate the system has proved controversial however, amid claims that the company’s links to the tobacco industry means that its appointment by the EU contravenes the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Protocol.

Dr Vera Luiza da Costa, head of the FCTC secretariat at the WHO, has accused big tobacco companies of using illicit trade in tobacco to open up new markets and test products where they have no formal presence.

Meanwhile, an article published in the British Medical Journal in August concluded that the tobacco industry had made “concerted efforts to influence implementation of [track and trace] in the EU and has been largely successful in maximising industry control and minimising independence.”

That influence “seriously limits attempts to address tobacco smuggling,” it adds, whilst concluding that other countries should not attempt to replicate the EU system.

Dentsu claims its track and trace system is under full control of public authorities, including access to the collected data.

“This allows member states and the European Commission to monitor the movements of legal tobacco products (tracking) and to determine at which point a product was diverted into the illicit market, or vice versa (tracing),” it says.

“The analysis can also be used to highlight anomalies, to detect fraudulent activities, and to confirm if products are legitimate when passing inspection points.”

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