The National Assembly decided to lift the ban on selling, distributing, buying, possessing, and transporting tobacco or tobacco products in the country today. This is in light of the continuous smuggling of tobacco products through the country’s porous southern border, as well as the threats of COVID-19 situation. However, the ban on the production and manufacturing of tobacco and tobacco products in the country is still retained. The house will adopt the Bill tomorrow and forward it to the National Council for consideration.
The Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, MP Tshewang Lhamo, presented the Committee’s recommendation on the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Bill 2021 along with the proposed amendment from the Government and the clauses on which the amendments were proposed. All 19 recommendations were endorsed.
“Section 11 B, which declares that no individual in the country shall plant, harvest, or make tobacco or tobacco products, was not changed. However, we repealed the clause that prohibited the sale of tobacco products,” said Tshewang Lhamo, the Chairperson of the Legislative Committee.
The House also removed other sections concerning fines and penalties and possession and transportation of tobacco and tobacco products. The limit on the permissible quantity for import of such products has also been repealed. Before the relevant section was repealed, an individual was allowed to import only 800 sticks of cigarettes or 1200 sticks of bidis or 150 pieces of cigars or 750 grams of other tobacco or tobacco products.
Meanwhile, the foreign minister, Dr Tandi Dorji, added if the bill is approved, the government will take steps to prevent individuals from using tobacco and tobacco products.
“It is important to create awareness. So we have asked the health ministry to develop a programme to help people cut down on their tobacco consumption. Just like alcohol, we also won’t offer tobacco products to anyone below the age of 18 as is clearly reflected in the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority’s Rules and Regulations,” said Dr Tandi Dorji, the Foreign Affairs Minister.
As per a Press Release the Prime Minister’s Office issued on 22nd June, it is important that ban lift is not about promoting tobacco or encouraging its consumption.
Pema Seldon Tshering/Ssamten Doelkar/Sonam Tshering