Yeshey Lhadon

Residents in Thimphu can purchase tobacco products from the various identified outlets in different zones from today.

Bhutan Duty-Free Ltd.  (BDFL) decided to distribute the tobacco products to the shops identified as outlets after buyers overcrowded its main outlet at Chubachu, creating a chaotic situation on September 11.

De-Suups and police patrolling team struggled to enforce physical distancing, while the BDFL outlet closed before lunch leaving many disgruntled.

Some desperate consumers claimed that they were at the outlet as early as 5am although the outlet opens at 9:30am. More than 800 people gathered at the tobacco outlet that day.

BDFL sold tobacco products only to those with tokens to encourage people to queue up instead of crowding. Some days, BDFL issued as many as 500 tokens. But the customers increased each day.

BDFL opened three counters to address the overcrowding. But the situation continued to worsen.

One of the consumers said that she reached the outlet at 6am. She said that there were only eight people before her.

She said, “I came here yesterday too. I am not happy as I lost my place in the line because people started rushing and pushing.”

Another consumer claimed that he walked from Taba to buy Baba (chewing tobacco). But he was chased away as the outlet closed its counter before time. He said that he would pitch a tent near the outlet to get his share if allowed.

A De-Suup on duty at BDFL tobacco outlet said that people became aggressive, and it was challenging to manage the crowd.

Some at the outlet said that most of the buyers were shopkeepers who brought all of their family members to buy cheap tobacco products.

The shopkeepers brought their non-consumer relatives and friends, even underage youth and elderlies above the age of 60. “They are hoarding,” an official said.

People were misusing the identity cards of others to get more tobacco products, some customers alleged.

“Shopkeepers pay Nu 150 for a dozen of Baba at the tobacco outlet and later sell each packet for Nu 250. It’s an unfair price,” said a consumer.

Customers are urged to follow Covid-19 protocol and follow the outsourcing guidelines for fair distribution and to avoid such unpleasant incidents in future.

PT Tshongkhang at Changzamtok zone ran out of tobacco products on Saturday. All the zone outlets will restock tobacco products on Monday.