All groceries and pan shops can sell tobacco and tobacco products: PM

However, karaoke, drayangs, bars, restaurants and shops near schools and institutions are not allowed to sell tobacco and tobacco products

All groceries and pan shops in the country can sell tobacco and tobacco products except for karaokes, drayangs, bars, restaurants and shops near schools and institutions, according to Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering.

Following the Royal Assent granted last week, Lyonchhen said the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021 becomes an act now.

“We must now let tobacco come to the market and tobacco users must have easy access,” said Lyonchhen.

However, the PM said tobacco products would not be available in any public places.

 Lyonchhen said the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) is the alternate approving authority as per the Act and the authority would come up with the tobacco guidelines next week.   

“Let the BNCA to work on it, improve it and come up with the final version, “he said.

 The Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2021, meanwhile, allows the selling, distributing, buying, possessing, and transporting of tobacco or tobacco products in the country legally. 

However, the ban on the cultivation, production and manufacturing of tobacco and tobacco products in the country is still retained. 

 The Tax Act of Bhutan 2021 also revised the sales tax on tobacco and tobacco products imported from India and sold through outlets in the country to 0% from the 100% sales tax.

 Lyonchhen said tobacco products sold by the shopkeepers cannot be 100% taxed if bought from across the borders.

 As per the new price mentioned by the Bhutan Duty Free Limited, a packet of Classic cigarette is now Nu 290, Wills Navy Cut Nu 95; and a bundle of tobacco (Baba) is Nu 80.

 Additionally, Lyonchhen said initially a tobacco user had to go to the Duty Free Outlet and buy for themselves and cannot buy more than 800 sticks of cigarettes or 20 grams of tobacco (baba) in a month.

 “With the Act, one can now buy a truckload of tobacco products if one wants, or for relatives or 10 times in a day. There is no restriction in quantity,” the PM said.

 Meanwhile, during the 5th session of the third parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said selling of tobacco products to a person below 18 years of age would not be allowed as per the rules and regulations and that the Ministry of the Health would come up with advocacy and awareness programs on the harmful use of tobacco.

  The Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2021 was introduced as an Urgent Bill on June 22 in the National Assembly to curb the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the country, as even the borders were closed to contain the COVID-19, the illegal trading of tobacco products across the borders were thriving resulting in the community transmission of the COVID-19 in the country.

 Records with Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) show a total confiscation of over Nu 7mn worth of tobacco products as opposed to Nu 2.9mn in 2019.

 In 2021, as of June, the RBP had already seized Nu 5.9mn worth of tobacco products (value in MRP, without 100 percent tax).

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu