Describing the recently passed Tobacco Control Bill as being “harsh in measures”, the Demerara Tobacco Company on Wednesday called on President David Granger to reconsider the regulations within the piece of legislation before offering his assent.
In fact, the company is calling on the President to send the Bill back to the National Assembly and ask for it to be sent to a select committee so that it can be properly analyzed and reviewed to minimize the impact of the measures, not only for the industry but also for citizens.
Company Director, Maurlain Kirton said the company was not opposed to the regulations but was concerned that the measures were highly draconian, discriminatory and even unconstitutional.
“We are of the view that some of the proposals are not balanced and justified and we believe there are less restrictive alternatives which are proportionate, effective and feasible and that there are several clauses which infringe on the rights of ordinary citizens and discriminate against many who are seeking to earn their livelihood from the selling of a legal product,” she noted.
Joined by Director Raoul Glynn, Kirton believes that while the Bill will reduce revenue it will have little or no impact on consumption.
Drawing from the experience in other regional states, the company believes that the Control Bill in its present form will only give rise to an underground economy where the government will not benefit from revenues.
Kirton said while the Bill proposes to ban indoor smoking, advertising, sponsorship and promotions to protect non-smokers, there were several other measures that require further probing and amending.
Among them are the definition of the term – workplace and public spaces.
Kirton expressed concern that the definition of workplace within the Bill was too broad and is the belief that public places should be allowed to set up adequate designated smoking area.
“The company is disappointed that we were not given the full opportunity in formal consultations to advance our views, aimed principally at attaining balanced regulation and removing elements of discrimination and other measures that are too draconian in their effect,” she added.
Kirton explained that the Company had written to the current Minister of Health and other Health Ministers and have also written directly to Members of Parliament, both on the government and opposition sides.
The Bill has been around since 2012 but was never debated and passed by the previous government.
Notwithstanding the current situation, the Company will continue responsible marketing of its products.
In the coming period, the company says it will work with and communicate to its consumers, retailers, and distributors to provide adequate information and guidance as it relates to the new law.
The Bill was passed in the National Assembly by a majority just last week.
The Health Ministry has made it clear that it will move ahead with the legislation.
Public Health Attorney and Consultant, Kesaundra Alves, recently stated in an interview, that tobacco companies all around the world have always tried to fight down legislation that brings control. She said the same was expected in Guyana.
Ms. Alves stated that the tobacco industry here, has been throwing out several misconceptions and false statements around with regard to the tobacco control bill.
She noted that the government intends to go on a public relations blitz to truly explain the implications of the bill and its intentions. (by Kurt Campbell)