Even with the ban of tobacco sale and import lifted, some of the tobacco consumers still complain about buying cigarettes at high costs, same as before when the ban was on.
Tenzin Dorji who is a smoker said he cannot make it to the tobacco outlets as he lives far away. He is still buying cigarettes from the shops near his house at Nu 30 per stick.
Samten Norbu, from Paro said that he has never seen a single tobacco outlet shop in Paro, and whenever he has work in Thimphu, he purchases bundles of BABA chewing tobacco because the shopkeepers in Paro are still selling BABA at the same rate.
A shopkeeper selling tobacco in Thimphu said that she has been selling tobacco products for very long period, and she still has the old stock left, which she has purchased with 100 percent tax.
“If I sell the old stocks with 0 percent tax then I will have to bear a huge amount of loss,” she said.
She also said that she has lost many customers due to the lifting of the tobacco ban.
“I still have old stocks to clear which I am thinking of sending to remote places where there are no tobacco outlets, so that I can recover the money. Most people who are aware of the 0 percent tax in tobacco now so even if they don’t have cigarettes or BABA in their hand, they buy only a stick of cigarette or two, unlike before, they used to buy packets,” said another shopkeeper in Thimphu.
It was learnt that tobacco consumers in many remote places are buying tobacco with 100 percent tax because of the unavailability of the tobacco outlet shops. There are also some people who are taking advantage of the lifting of ban by buying tobaccos with 0 percent tax from the Thimphu tobacco outlet and selling in remote places with 100 percent tax and even more.
Shops selling tobacco illegally have started to see a drastic downfall in their business, whereas the tobacco consumers, using the privilege of 0 percent tax from the outlet, are delighted about the tobacco cost reduction.
Meanwhile, Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) has notified that the Bhutan Duty-Free Limited will make its existing tobacco stock available to the authorised outlets for sale, until the supply commences.
Chief Program Officer of BNCA, Ugyen Tshering, stated that only micro general shops including ‘paan’ shops and grocery retailers will be allowed to sell tobacco and its related products, and daily records of the distributions are to be kept by the dealers and sellers of tobacco and tobacco products.
The lifting on the ban of tobacco was due to increasing number of tobacco smuggling incidences along the porous southern borders, and to reduce the threat of COVID-19 transmission.