MB Subba

The Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) is reviewing the new Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act 2021, which recently received the Royal Assent.

However, the BNCA has not received any directive from the government on how to go ahead with the implementation of the Act, according to BNCA officials.

The Act states that Bhutan Narcotic Control Board shall “approve rules” but does not mention who will frame the rules and regulations.

The new Act allows import, distribution and sale of tobacco and tobacco products in the country.

BNCA’s officiating director general, Ugyen Tshering, said that he had received a letter from the Speaker stating that the Royal Assent was granted and that the authority should work in accordance with the new Act.

“We are reviewing and discussing the provisions that have been repealed in the old Act, and after the completion of the preparatory work we will present a report to the Tobacco Control Board. Then we will notify the general public about implementation of the new Act,” he said.

He said the Cabinet had taken a copy of the old tobacco control rules and regulations.

Relevant cabinet members were not available for comments.

The Bhutan Narcotic Control Board shall also function as the Tobacco Control Board.

The Board designates smoking rooms or areas in public places under section from time to time, according to the Act.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering at the meet the press on July 9 said that the government would put in place stringent rules and regulations for distribution, sale and buying of tobacco and tobacco products.

“The government will ensure that tobacco is not available in every corner of the place. We will bring in a very professional approach to discourage smokers and chewers, to make sure that anybody, everybody who gets involved in the habit will be accounted for,” he said, adding that rules and regulations were being drafted.

The tobacco Act was amended in the summer session as an urgent Bill in view of continued smuggling of tobacco products through the porous border in the south, which has been identified as one of the main reasons for the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country.

The government has also done away with the sales tax on tobacco and tobacco products until the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July next year if Parliament passes the Tax Bill 2021. All tobacco products imported from India and sold through outlets are levied 100 percent sales tax.

Edited by Tashi Dema