Bhutan moves to legalize tobacco products; smuggling fuels risk of COVID-19

The Bhutanese government is all set to legalize the sale of tobacco products in the country as smuggling of the same--fueled by the ban-- from its southern borders risks the spread of the COVID-19

Jun 20, 2021
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Tobacco products

The Bhutanese government is all set to legalize the sale of tobacco products in the country as smuggling of the same--fueled by the ban-- from its southern borders risks the spread of the COVID-19. An urgent amendment to the Tobacco Act will be introduced in the current session of parliament. 

The government is of the view, Kuensel reported, that continued smuggling of Tobacco products from India is the main reason for the spread of COVID-19 in its southern districts. Parliament Secretariat has received an urgent amendment proposal from the government. The bill will come for discussion next week. 

Details of the bill have not yet been shared by the speaker. According to Bhutanese laws, the speaker of the lower house must first consult with the chairman of the upper house on urgent and important bills. 

From 23 March last year, when the country first went into lockdown, to 12 June, 132 people have been arrested while smuggling tobacco products in Bhutan. 

Significantly, last year, authorities allowed Bhutan Duty-Free Limited  (BDFL) to sell tobacco products in a bid to stop smuggling. However, the BDFL’s inability to supply tobacco to remote parts of the country continued smuggling. 

Legal experts had also raised objections over allowing the BDFL to sell tobacco products without legal clearance. Furthermore, several blocks in the country had refused to allow the sale of tobacco, saying they wanted people to quit the practice. 

(SAM)

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