Smoking in public places has become an issue

Thukten Zangpo

The country imported tobacco and tobacco products worth Nu 565.63 million (M), including 96.85M sticks of cigarettes worth Nu 509.9M, in the first six months of this year, according to statistics published by the Department of Revenue and Customs.

The ban on sale of tobacco was lifted in July last year as the smuggling of tobacco products became rampant amid the pandemic.

The country imported Nu 1.1M worth of tobacco and tobacco products from India and other countries in 2018. They included 103,735 sticks of cigarettes worth Nu 896,195.

The total value of tobacco and tobacco products imported in 2019 fell to Nu 658,362. The import included 57,096 sticks of cigarettes worth Nu 588,144.

In 2020, after the country’s borders were closed on March 23 because of the pandemic, Nu 144.23M worth of tobacco and tobacco products were imported.

Shortly after lifting the ban, the value of tobacco imports spiked to Nu 453.43M. The imports included 49.41M sticks of cigarettes worth Nu 401.75M.

A look at the import figures for 2020 and 2021 indicates that the smuggling of tobacco was rampant. The import of tobacco and tobacco products increased by 200 percent after the ban was lifted.

Assuming that the same volume of tobacco products are imported in the second half of the year, the total value of tobacco imports for the year would be Nu 1.13 billion (B).

Had the government allowed people to import tobacco and charged a 100 percent tax, the government would have earned Nu 453.43M and Nu 1.13B as taxes in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Given that the current population is 763,249, assuming that the same quantity of tobacco is imported in next six months, the per capita consumption comes to around 253 sticks per person.

Before the ban, an individual was allowed to import only 800 sticks of cigarettes or 1,200 sticks of bidis or 150 pieces of cigars, or 750 grams of other tobacco or tobacco products.

The economic affairs ministry notifying the lift on ban stated that the ministry does not promote or encourage smoking in the interest of public health.