-calls for balanced regulation
The Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO) – a member of the British American
Tobacco (BAT) Group – is calling on the Guyana Government to ensure balanced regulation before approving the Bill governing tobacco control. It has deemed some recommendations on the draft as “too draconian”. This Bill was expected to be tabled this month however, there seems to be a delay.
The company said that it was left out of the consultation sessions for the new tobacco legislation which seeks to impose a ban on public smoking and to prohibit advertisement and sponsorship from the tobacco industry, among other things.
Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton, according to reports, had stated that Guyana had signed onto the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. He expounded that part of that agreement entails that the ministry or any organization which proposes to impose the legislation, should not be in consultation with the tobacco industry.
However, top officials of DEMTOCO and British American Tobacco, yesterday, spoke of the importance of consultation with the entity, citing that the company is in a position to shed more insight on the matter and efforts should be made to have their inputs.
ILLICIT TRADE, BLACK MARKET AND KNOCKOFFS
Managing Director of DEMTOCO, Maurlaine Argyle-Kirton, stated that whilst the company is supportive of the legislation, the authorities should be cautious in their implementation of this legislation since there might be negative spin-offs.
She said that the company had the privilege to see several snippets of the draft legislation, and judging from what they noticed, the increase in taxation and the other impositions, might lead to distributors and consumers turning toward the illicit trading of cigarettes, the emergence of cheap knockoffs, among other illegal activities.
Also, there exists the possibility of traders and consumers turning toward the blackmarket, which in itself is a concern, since it will pave the way for possible tax evasion practices.
Argyle-Kirton added contrast by pointing out that the company – which has been in existence for more than eight decades – contributed $4 billion last year to Guyana’s revenue base.
Christopher Brown, Head of Legal and External Affairs of the British American Tobacco, Caribbean, echoed Argyle-Kirton’s support of the legislation. He stated that there are concerns about some of the recommendations, which he described as being “too draconian”.
He also stated that based on snippets of the draft, a recommendation that portrays “discrimination” was noticed. He went on to say that an employee who leaves a tobacco company, would not be able to seek employment with a public entity for a minimum of five years.
The company is concerned, too, about consumer’s freedom to express their right in terms of choice, pointing to an intended ban of corporate advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
Brown stated that his company is requesting that there should be balanced regulations, which means that there should be an opportunity for the co-existence of smokers and non-smokers with some level of restriction.
Brown recognised that tobacco consumption had seen some level of restriction globally, thus, acknowledging the need for sound regulation, while stating that it is important that all stakeholders are involved in the process, so as to ensure an orderly marketplace, which serves the interests of both consumers and Governments.
The company, he said, has written letters to the Minister and other Cabinet members requesting meetings. The company said that it will continue to reach out to the authorities on the issue of tobacco regulation, with a willingness to work with the regulators to provide balanced laws in support of their objectives, while maintaining consumers’ rights.
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