The National Council in the last session had made various amendments of the 2012 Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan after finding problems in the Act that they felt negatively impacted the society at large.
During the introduction of the act the members had proposed a few significant amendments which were passed by a simple majority. The ball is now in the NA court which can accept the amendments, refuse them or change them.
The NC had reviewed and deliberated upon the recommendations submitted by the legislative committee of the NC on the manufacture, selling, import, cultivating, harvesting of tobacco as well as on the roles of the enforcement agencies affiliated to the act.
The amended Section 11 (b) of the act allows any person to supply and distribute tobacco and tobacco products but only disallows manufacturing of such products.
Section 11 (c) of the earlier Act disallowed individuals from selling and buying tobacco and other tobacco products, however, the amendment of the NC allows individuals to buy and sell tobacco and other tobacco products.
The 2010 and 2012 Tobacco Control Acts allowed import of tobacco products only for personal consumption, but the amended act allows import of tobacco products for commercial purpose by those individuals who are permitted to do so through separate licenses.
However, the shop selling tobacco and tobacco products through a special permit from the government is not allowed to display tobacco and tobacco products at the point of sale.
The amended act as per the ‘legislative intent’ is not to allow free sale and buying of tobacco and tobacco products. Instead the sale of tobacco and other tobacco products would be highly regulated by the Government and designated responsible government agencies with certain measures and mechanisms whereby the trading of tobacco and other tobacco products are tightly controlled.
In doing this only few individual sellers would be granted license/permit to sell tobacco where the buyers can purchase tobacco from these particular shops without free display of tobacco products in every corner shop.
The Government would then come out with commensurate fiscal policy like different tax rates (high tax rates recommended) for sale of tobacco and tobacco products.
Hence in order to properly understand the legislative intention, the NC representatives’ sited an example of liquor shops operating in towns which are in limited numbers unlike the grocery shops found in every street. So the members proposed for the sales of tobacco products to take place only from those specifically allowed shops.
The amendment of the act according to the NC representatives is to forbid black marketing and other problems related to tobacco. Further the main objective of the amendment is also to generate revenue for the government.