Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

Soon after the opening of the “tobacco quota outlets” in Phuentsholing was announced yesterday, many rushed to buy the products at the two outlets at the customs building.

People queued up with a copy of their citizenship identity cards.

About seven varieties of cigarettes, including bidis, and chewing tobacco (BABA) were floated for sale.

This initiative is line with the government’s decision to make tobacco products available through Bhutan Duty Free Limited (BDFL) and curb smuggling in the wake of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering had said that this mechanism would allow Bhutanese to buy the specified quantity of tobacco products for personal consumption from the BDFL outlets by paying 100 percent tax.

Illegally, a piece of Navy Cut cigarette is sold at Nu 30-35 in Phuentsholing. With the BDFL access, smokers get 200 pieces at Nu 3,610, which means it is Nu 18.05 per piece.

The rate of a dozen chewing tobacco (BABA) costs Nu 150. A single packet weighing 10 grams with a maximum retail price of Nu 3 is sold between Nu 50 and 80 in the black market.

Dorji, who had come to buy chewing tobacco yesterday said that the initiative was timely.

“This means less number of illegal selling and buying,” he said.

Another buyer, Tashi Wangchuk, said that such measure should have been started a long time ago.

“It would have brought economic benefits to the government,” he said, adding that many people wouldn’t have gone to jail for smuggling.

Although people lauded the initiative, many are unhappy that they cannot buy in loose packets. The tobacco outlets will facilitate services during office hours—from 9am to 5pm. Similar outlets will be opened in nine places Phuentsholing and Thimphu.