DEMTOCO rejects claim of bid to deter signing of tobacco law

The Demerara Tobacco Company Ltd. (DEMTOCO) on Friday rejected an assertion by the PAHO/WHO Representative here, Dr William Adu-Krow that as an industry it would seek to deter President David Granger from assenting to the recently passed Tobacco Control Bill of 2017.

The Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation’s (PAHO/WHO)   representative’s remarks were carried by the Kaieteur News last week.

In a statement, DEMTOCO also rebuffed the view that it we would seek to delay the passage of the legislation and pointed to its  public pronouncements as proof of the contrary. 

The company said that its official press statements, have indicated its support for the regulating of the local tobacco industry and recognition that the government has obligations flowing from it being Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Additionally, it said that in supporting the passage of the legislation, the company publicly wrote to both the present Public Health Minister  Volda  Lawrence, and the former, Dr George Norton,  offering assistance and support towards ensuring the development of a balanced piece of tobacco legislation.

It however said that since the passage of the bill it remains concerned that specific clauses in the legislation are harsh, and contain significant discriminatory measures that would negatively impact ordinary Guyanese.

“These concerning clauses, we believe go way beyond the stated intent of what a tobacco bill should be concerned with”, the company said and pointed to the following issues.

  • That the definition of “workplace” within the Bill infringes on the rights of homeowners to smoke in their own homes if they have employed help, for example a gardener or housekeeper. DEMTOCO said it was its considered opinion that a more reasonable approach to this would be to make an exception to private homes, when defining “workplace.”
  • Under the Section that proposes a Public Place Smoking Ban, DEMTOCO argues that the reference to no smoking in indoor places should not include private homes. Smoking cigarettes is not an illegal act and therefore should not be banned if a person chooses to do it in their own home, the company added.
  • Under the same section, DEMTOCO said that the ban imposed on smoking in bars, restaurants and hotels can accommodate both smokers and non-smokers alike with a provision for the establishment of outdoor designated smoking areas as is done in other countries.
  • It also argued that the ban on product display will see a rise in the illegal tobacco trade by driving legal sales under the counter.  It cited the case in neighbouring Suriname which it said saw an increase in the illicit tobacco trade from around 12 per cent to 70 percent. DEMTOCO proposed what it said was a “fitting compromise” that allows “the display of products at the point of sale only” to allow customers to see what they are buying.

It said that the ban on packs of tens is also a fuel for the rise in illicit trade as the majority of consumers not being able to afford a pack of 20, will move to purchase sticks or buy from illicit traders who will move to sell the 10s.

  • DEMTOCO also contended that the ban on carrying trays with tobacco products is significantly harsh  and  will affect the livelihood and income of hawkers, who have built homes and supported their families directly  from the proceeds of selling a legal tobacco products. The company suggested that the Bill be amended to allow for carrying trays to be labelled with required health warnings and declarations against selling to minors. It said that these can be provided by the tobacco company through its retailers.

DEMTOCO called again on President Granger to refer the Bill to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament for the removal of “discriminatory” elements prior to the gazetting of the bill.  The bill has already been passed and once this occurs it won’t be sent to a joint select committee. If President Granger assents to it as expected any future changes to the legislation would have to be by an amendment bill.

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