Importers have their say on proposed Tobacco Bill

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Major Importers of tobacco and tobacco products in Antigua & Barbuda say that there are several components of a draft bill that will have “unintended consequences” for businesses and key players if changes are not made.
Representatives of the business sector used the second Special Parliamentary Consultation, held at the Parliament building yesterday, to share their concerns about the proposed Tobacco Control Bill 2017.
Clement Winter of Anjo Wholesale, the local distributor of British American Tobacco – the world’s most international tobacco group – was the first local representative to take the floor.
He said the draft bill in its current state is “draconian” and there are several elements which will have to be reviewed.
“The banning of packaging to no less than 20 sticks will seriously impact on our business. The dollar value of sales equates to approximately $600,000 a year with duties and taxes to government amounting to $90,000 per year,” Winter said.
“Another issue is the clarity required where one can smoke. The bill indicates places which are prohibited, but there is no clarity on where one is able to smoke.”
The businessman also said there needs to be a revision of the section that speaks to residence and workplace.
Dion Francis of Kennedy’s Club said his company is a major contributor to the country’s annual festival and also to the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC).
He explained that section 17 of the bill, which speaks to the prohibition against tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, if implemented, would affect Kennedy’s relationship with these social partners.
“We market other products, but, if you put us in the tobacco industry, we will not be able to provide sponsorship or assist the hospital. Because technically you are taking us out of the loop of having any discussions with you on the document going forward,” Francis said.
He said the prohibition against tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship should be limited to tobacco manufacturers and not retailers who sell other products to the public.
“Even importers should not be included in that bracket because we actually import the cigarettes. So it should only apply to the manufacturers,” Francis said.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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