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Licence must for tobacco business from mid-March

Indian pawn and chewable tobacco are displayed for sale at a roadside in New Delhi, India, on Sunday, April 17, 2016. Photo: Tsering Topgyal/AP

Tobacco outlets have to be at least 100 m away from educational institutions

Kathmandu, January 22, 2017: In a bid to regulate the sale of tobacco products and discourage its consumption, the government has passed a proposal to ban the sale of tobacco products without government licence from mid-March.

A Cabinet meeting, on Thursday, passed the proposal of the Ministry of Health to allow only authorised licence holders to sell tobacco products from mid-March. This means that no vendor or trader will be allowed to sell tobacco products without obtaining licence from the government and those who acquire such licence will be barred from selling other retail products.

Tobacco products include cigarette, quid of tobacco, tobacco leaves, cigar, chewing tobacco and gutka.

This decision of the government is based on Tobacco Product (Control and Regulatory) Act, which states that the government may, if it deems necessary, introduce provisions of licence for the sale and distribution of tobacco products.

“We put forward the proposal due to the burgeoning tobacco business in the country that is largely unmanaged and also due to the increasing consumption of such products that has led to health risks,” said Bhogendra Dotel, spokesperson for MoH. He added that all tobacco vendors and traders will have to acquire government licence to stay in the tobacco business and such licence holder can only sell tobacco products from mid-March.

According to Dotel, such vendors and traders will get operational licence either from the Department of Industry and its line agencies or the Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interest and its line agencies.

MoH will soon publish a notice calling all who are into tobacco business to take licence from government agencies. Such businesses will have to acquire licences by the second week of March, according to MoH officials.

Similarly, those who obtain licences and are authorised by the government to sell tobacco products will have to instal a big notice board in front of their outlets mentioning statutory information as required by the Tobacco Product (Control and Regulatory) Act. The notice should include statutory information like tobacco consumption is prohibited for individuals below 18 years of age and pregnant women, consumption of tobacco products is injurious to health, individuals are not allowed to gift or distribute tobacco products for free and no smoking in public zones.

Moreover, such outlets have to be at least 100 metres away from educational and health institutions, child welfare homes, elderly care homes and child care centres.

“We aim to implement this provision in a gradual manner, which might require some more time. However, we will take action against those selling tobacco products without obtaining licence after mid-March as per existing law,” said Dotel. “MoH will monitor the market after mid-March in coordination with other government bodies.”

As per the Tobacco Product (Control and Regulatory) Act, the government can levy a fine of up to Rs 100,000 and cancel licence of businesses that are not up to the standard set by the law.

According to Nepal Rastra Bank, import of tobacco products increased by a whopping 92.5 per cent in the first five months of the current fiscal year as compared to the same period of previous fiscal. Tobacco products worth over Rs one billion were imported in the first five months of this fiscal. During the same period in the previous fiscal, Nepal had imported tobacco products worth Rs 526.1 million.