Responding to the question on lifting the ban on tobacco, asked during the virtual meet-the-press, Lyonchhen Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering stated that the ban on tobacco has not yet been lifted, but it is being put through the due process.
“The Parliament, consists of the Upper House, Lower House and His Majesty The King. The two Houses have approved to lift the certain provisions, but only after receiving the Royal Assent,” said the Prime Minister (PM).
Lyonchhen said that it will be made sure that tobacco is not made available everywhere. Licensing regulations will be provided so only a few shops, bars and groceries are allowed to sell the tobacco. This is to help discourage smokers and tobacco consumers and to make sure that anybody who gets involved in such habits will be accounted for.
“The Tobacco Act under Article 11, importing, transporting and selling of tobacco is not allowed, so only that provision is being lifted. The Act does not stop the import of tobacco. The latest Tobacco Act of 2014, itself, allows the importation of tobacco. Import was allowed by the previous Act, itself, where the consumers, themselves, have to bring in the product for his own consumption. The Act, itself, has assumed that every Bhutanese can travel outside and buy tobacco, so it is clear that importation of tobacco was never banned, but the only difference is the consumer has to buy on their own,” said Lyonchhen.
Lyonchhen further added that the other provisions of the Act, such as restrictions of smoking in public places and selling tobacco to the minors, have not been disturbed in the new provision.
PM also said that the government will put in its utmost effort to discourage the consumption of tobacco and strengthen the remaining provisions besides lifting the import of tobacco.
An official from Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) said that not everyone will be allowed to sell tobaccos. Vendors have to get a license to sell tobacco. Accordingly BNCA, as an authority or enforcement agency said if only selective shops are given the license then it will be easier for BNCA to keep records and monitor, so as to ensure those licensed shops are not selling tobaccos to the minors.
He added that BNCA will aggressively monitor and ensure that non-smokers are not affected by the smokers, there will be stringent monitoring in public places and institutions, and if anyone is caught smoking in public places, there will be penalties to deal with.
Upon receiving the Royal Assent, the government will implement the new tobacco regulation, said the PM.