The decision by Bhutan’s government to allow the opening of tobacco sale outlets in the country is consistent with the nation’s Tobacco Control Act and constitution, according to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
While the Tobacco Control Act of 2010 restricts the domestic sale and purchase of tobacco products, it allows individuals to import tobacco for personal consumption.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, however, Bhutan has closed official border crossings, boosting illegal imports. By allowing limited domestic sales, the government hopes to crack down on smuggling.
Responding to critics who questioned the legality of the measure, the OAG said the extraordinary situation brought about by the coronavirus crisis justified the measure. However, the office insisted that the domestic sales outlets could be tolerated only for the duration of the pandemic.
Bhutan banned tobacco sales in December 2004. Soon after, Tobacco Reporter visited the Himalayan kingdom to report from the world’s first officially smoke-free nation.