Given the number of uncertainties surrounding the recently passed Tobacco Control Bill, Health Minister Volda Lawrence has given her assurance that there will not be a ban on public vending of cigarettes, but rather people selling loose cigarettes will not be allowed to continue plying their trade.
The Minister told media operatives on Thursday that the Bill does will stop people
from smoking and it does not ban persons from selling cigarettes. However, the Bill prohibits the sale of loose cigarettes.
“So when the regulations come out, you will see that we will be saying how many cigarettes should be in the packet and what must be on those packages,” she explained.
Lawrence said no one would be prohibited from selling cigarettes at the street corners. “The good life is for everyone, even the street vendors but I can assure you the cost to take care of a person who is suffering from any illness that is tobacco-related is far more than what we get in taxes,” she added.
The Minister maintained that the Bill seeks to provide for the adoption of and implementation of tobacco control policies, with the World Health Organisation.
The Bill serves as the legal regulator for administration, inspection and enforcement, while providing legislative protection from exposure to second- hand smoke by eliminating public smoking.
It seeks to reduce tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke; prevent tobacco use by minors and protect workers and the public from exposure to tobacco smoke.
The Bill also clears the way for the establishment of a National Tobacco Control Council.
Despite the positives of the Bill, the Opposition claimed the Bill in its current form, “evokes tremendous amount of controversies” with respect to whether it is pro-business, anti-business and pro-health, in addition to whether it infringes on the rights of citizens.
One of the more controversial clauses in the Bill is Section 19 (2), which imposes a display ban on the item although it remains a legal product. This ban essentially eliminates the advertising of tobacco products and forces wholesalers and retailers to sell ‘under the counter.’
Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO) has said it is not opposed to the new regulations, but the company believes that the Bill is not only unbalanced, but is not justifiable.
The company on Wednesday called on President David Granger to send the Bill to a select committee so that it can be properly analysed and reviewed to minimise the impact of the measures, not only for the industry but also for the citizens of Guyana.