Even with the Act allowing import without tax

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Despite the new Tobacco Control Act coming into force, there are still some who are trying to smuggle tobacco  into the country.

The recent tobacco seizures by the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) in Phuentsholing is a clear indication.

On July 31, at around 8:30pm, police seized 206 boxes (gums) of bidis, 2,400 bundles of  BABA chewing tobacco, and 7,600 bundles of small BABA bundles. All these were seized from the truck parking, which is currently operating as a dry port.

A BABA packet costs between  Nu 70 and 100 in Thimphu. Considering 12 packets of BABA in a big box and six packets in the smaller box, more than 74,000 packets were being smuggled. If these products had reached Thimphu, it would mean a business worth Nu 7 million (M).

According to a police official, the supplier from across the border is an individual known as Jiban Day Sarkar. The importer is from Thimphu.

Two  days prior to this, police also seized an illegal consignment on July 27. It was also at the truck parking port. The consignment was sent by one Manoj Aggarwal from across the border. The importer is from Thimphu.

This consignment had 75 boxes of Wills Navy Cut cigarettes. A box has 20 packets of cigarettes. Each packet, which has 10 sticks, would be sold at Nu 300 had it reached the capital Thimphu. 

This alone would mean a business of Nu 450,000.

When the police intercepted, 483 boxes of bidis, 400 bundles of BABA (big) and 1,060 bundles of small BABA were also seized. Another consignment was also seized at the truck parking on June 29, just a few days after the new Tobacco Act was adopted. The supplier’s name is unknown but the importer is from Thimphu.

A total of 210 bundles of chewing tobacco BABA (big) and 600 bundles of small BABA, including 36 pieces of tobacco leaves (290 grams) were seized.

According to a police official, smugglers tried to hide the tobacco products in vegetable bags.

Meanwhile, the government has already announced the revised price of the products. Micro general shops, including paan shops, and grocery retailers will be allowed to sell tobacco products.

A regular smoker, Sonam Penjor, said: “ I almost spent Nu 2,000 to 3,000 in buying cigarettes. A Navy Cut packet was around Nu 300. As we legalised it, the cost came down to Nu 95 per packet. So, I would be saving Nu 1,500.”

Another smoker, Sonam Tashi, said it was a wise decision to amend the Tobacco Act.

“Smuggling can be reduced and traders can recover their business.”

On June 25, the National Assembly adopted the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021. It allows sales, distribution, buying, possessing, and transporting tobacco or tobacco products in the country legally. The Royal Assent was granted recently.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk