Discussions in the National Council on amending the Tobacco Control Act 2010

The National Council today debated on the Amendment Bill to the Tobacco Control Act 2010. The Health Minister presented the Amendment Bill and responded to questions raised by a few Councillors.

I raised two questions.

i. Had the Government carried out any study to understand the legislative impact of the Tobacco Control Act 2010? Reduction in tobacco users? Control over smuggling or black marketeering?

The response was that no study had been conducted which would have helped everyone understand how it may have helped in reducing tobacco consumption and also decreased in smuggling or black marketeering. Instead reference to a study pertaining to years before the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act 2010 was made which although informative did not carry too much relevance.

ii. What was the Government planning on doing about those people in prison for not necessarily ‘smuggling’ but exceeding the permissible limits?

The response was that the present proposed amendments were targeted towards helping solve similar complications but regarding people already in prison, it was beyond the powers of the Government and that there will arise a solution he said.

The debate following that basically revolved around sections 11 (b) & (c). Four separate motions were moved and voted.

(a) Accept changes endorsed by the National Assembly (basically adding up to the same essence of the earlier clauses) – 7 votes

(b) Delete both sections 11 (b) & (c) translating into lifting of the ban – 11 votes

(c) Accept changes endorsed by the National Assembly like in the case of (a) and INCREASE permissible quantity – 9 votes

(d) Accept changes endorsed by the National Assembly like the case of (a) and DECREASE penalty (lower than fourth degree penalty) – 9 votes

The voting required 13 votes for a clear decision as per the Rule of Procedures of the National Council, calculated on the number of members present. It was then decided that members with differing view points as expressed would meet and work on a common motion to be presented on Monday (January 16, 2012) to be voted on.

The debate was almost a re-run of the 1st debate when it was still the Tobacco Control Bill where the House stood divided except for a few more members who have now taken a more balanced look at it today. While some of us referred to proportionality of offense and penalty, practical problems of implementation, lack of impact so far, a few remain fixated on culture and religious reasons.

14 members met this evening to discuss the differences as directed  by the Chairperson. The discussion was chaired by the Chair of the Legislative Committee Honourable Kuenlay Tshering. The meeting concluded with most members in favour of ‘deleting’ sections 11 (b) & (c). He will present the motion to the House on Monday to vote and conclude discussions.

The discussion on the amendment is far from over. Should the National Council agree to delete sections 11 (b) & (c), meaning lifting the ban on tobacco, it will then have to go back to the National Assembly and find support. As an urgent bill it will also have to clear both Houses and therefore, would probably have to go to the Joint Sitting. The National Council’s stand will be its original stand once again.

Since the 4 separate motions were put to vote one after the other, I supported motion (b) and then (d) and thinking about it now I think I may support motion (c) too now.

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About Sangay Khandu

Sangay Khandu is a Member of Parliament, serving his 2nd term representing the people of Gasa Dzongkhag to the National Council.
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3 Responses to Discussions in the National Council on amending the Tobacco Control Act 2010

  1. Deki Yangzom says:

    I think the tobacco ban should be flexible for people who loves to use tobacco. It is like everyone who eats doma and pani in Bhutan. Nobody is stopping of banning on it. But we must restrict people, who uses tobacco to use in certain places only. For example, the office goers should have a space only meant for that purpose and same in the public places also. They should not use carelessly coz its smoke harms non-smokers more than smokers.

  2. Leki Tshering says:

    The source of ban on tobacco dates back to the reign of the 4th King as an absolute monarch. In the government of the people, the legislation belongs to the people and the judiciary is independent. The “Ban on Tobacco” is an issue much praised by the global fora. It has a meaningful theme for the reason of the country being a Buddhist nation. When we discuss about such issues, careful thought need to be given on social and religious impact while addressing values of health and hygiene. It is therefore my opinion that the house of representatives of the people, which forms the parliament should overhaul the entire chapter of the “Ban on Tobacco” and bring about a new legislation applicable to every one irrespective of position, race, sex, color, ethnicity and those wealthy as well as living under poverty. Concerning the issue relating to people already in prison, it will be wrong on the part of the government to say that it would be beyond the powers of the Government. The victims of “Tobacco Law” must be adequately compensated in terms of the period of jail term they spent as well as negative social impact they have faced due to wrong action of the government.They should be allowed to live a dignified life free of social outcast, which is a normal stigma in Bhutan.

  3. TB Gheashung says:

    Every Thing about TCA seems Fake. people those who formulated the act doesn’t know the actual reality.it is making people unhappy. they should know that even smoker contributes during election. recent amendment doesn’t really make any difference to the act. it has not discussed the issue of those who are already in prison.

    To be very honest, i bet, government can never Stop people from smoking and will not be able to make prefect implementation of TCA. it is the poor people who will suffer, wealthier will get their smoke somehow & anyway. other side,government is just making them self a big joke.i would suggest them to be more practical. thanks

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