Shops buying tobacco from duty free and selling it in their outlets

Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) have seized 100 packets of cigarettes, 100 packets of Baba and 30 packets of Bidi amounting to Nu 75,000 from shops in Thimphu between 28 October to 5 November. 

They were getting it from duty free and later selling it in shops with increased prices.

Director General of BNCA Sonam Dorji said that it is not a mistake of duty free because there is no way to distinguish tobacco user and non users. Anybody above the age of 18 is entitled to get their permissible quota just by producing a CID. 

“This is start of the problem but nothing can be done unless we come up with something else. There are women carrying child on their back standing in a queue to get their quota of tobacco which is brought from the duty free but it eventually lands up in different shops,” he added.

Their inspectors are on the move always and they have been seizing tobacco products everyday. When they seize tobacco products from the shops, the shopkeepers’ show them the duty free receipt.

He said, “They are saying that since they brought the product from duty free they thought that it is allowed to be sold not knowing that the sale from the duty free is for personal consumption. However, we do not know if that message was conveyed to people on this by the relevant stakeholders.”

Though duty free is allowed by the government to facilitate in distributing the products, they do not have a wider reach and so there is a big rise of the black market.

Black marketing was always a concern for them, he said, adding that knowing that issue they wanted to give people a choice through nicotine replacement therapy. “If a person is ready to come forward we are going to give them the services. Nicotine replacement therapy will be made available in pharmacies in town in the form of chewing gum and patches and people can avail those services,” he added.

Meanwhile, he said that they have heard of officials selling tobacco to shops. The authority does not know about who monitors on how many products the duty free has imported or imports or if the customs is involved when the consignment is cleared at the point of entry.

The cost of tobacco product is 100 percent taxable and at the point of entry if the duty free declares the details of the imported products the custom can than collect 100 percent tax for the consignment and in doing so there is no way to manipulate.

However, if the consignment is coming straight away to duty free from the point of entry and the tax is getting deposited by the duty free outlet to the government account than there is every chance of manipulation.

BNCA will be looking into this matter seriously and at present they are looking into reducing illegal market and are monitoring to ensure there is no seepage from the duty free to the private businesses.

It was learnt that the seizures which were made before October had a receipts from duty free while the recent seizures they have made has no receipt from the duty free. He said, “If they do not have a receipt from duty free than it is of sure that there is black market business happening and that also in a huge quantity.”

BNCA is in the look out  for big fishes, he said, adding that though they have the lead they are waiting for evidence to get hold of those people who are into this illegal business.    

Borders are guarded by police and desuups and lots of seizures were made and BNCA due to current situation could not travel to other districts to monitor but in Thimphu, they are on their toes, he added.

“I feel that there should have been broader and comprehensive discussions by the government before they allowed it,” he said.

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