Cost of tobacco products in the market will stabilize slowly: MoEA Minister

The minister says that the cost of tobacco and tobacco products would not come down immediately

The cost of tobacco and tobacco products will stabilize slowly in the market and might take a week or two as the Bhutan Narcotics and Control Authority (BNCA) had notified recently of the amendment of the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act of Bhutan 2021, according to Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma. 

The notification on August 3 allows the pan shops and grocery retailers to sell tobacco and tobacco products. Moreover, it added that the Bhutan Duty-Free Limited will make its tobacco stock available to the authorized outlets for sale.

The notification also states that authorized tobacco shops and tobacco wholesale dealers are the only entities permitted to import tobacco and tobacco products.

Despite the amendment of the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act of Bhutan 2021 to stop the illegal sale of tobacco and tobacco products in the country, it was found that illegal trading is still happening. 

“We cannot allow only the Bhutan Duty-Free Limited to be the distributor because the aim of the tobacco amendment is to stop the illegal trade and at the same time make tobacco and tobacco products available,” Lyonpo said, adding that if there is not enough availability of tobacco and tobacco products, illegal trade will still exist.

Lyonpo said there is no tobacco distributor besides the Bhutan Duty-Free Limited and with the new regulation that would be revised and implemented by December this year, there will be a good distributor wholesale system in the country. 

Additionally, the minister said if someone wants to apply for a wholesale licence for tobacco distributorship, they should complete the formalities and obtain the license. 

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 100%. 

The Bhutan Duty-Free Limited announced the cost of a packet of classic cigarettes at Nu 290, Wills Navy Cut at Nu 95, and a bundle of tobacco (BABA) at Nu 80. 

However, the market cost for tobacco and tobacco products are much higher compared to the rates announced by the Bhutan Duty-Free Limited. 

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the cost of tobacco and tobacco products as compared to earlier times has reduced in the market. 

However, the minister said some shops might be selling at extra price because it could be probably bought illegally or kept in stock bought from the Bhutan Duty-Free Limited or other shops. 

Additionally, the minister said the BNCA’s notification came out recently to sell tobacco and tobacco products legally and the reduced cost of tobacco and tobacco products would not be available in the shops. 

The cost of tobacco and tobacco products would not come down immediately. However, it will stabilize slowly, said Lyonpo. 

The BNCA also notified that tobacco and tobacco products are prohibited to persons below 18 years of age and the sale of loose cigarette sticks is not permitted to discourage curious and experimental attempts. 

Moreover, it states authorized dealers and sellers are not allowed to display or advertise tobacco and tobacco products on the counters or any other media channels. 

The sale of tobacco and tobacco products within the vicinity of schools, hospitals, clinics, BHUs, monasteries, Dzongs, and private as well as public heritage sites is prohibited, and consuming tobacco and tobacco products beyond the designated area is strictly prohibited.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu