…as Health Minister says Govt has no plans to reconsider same
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) weighing in on the recently tabled Tobacco Control Amendment Bill has said that it supports the call by the industry for the Government to refer the Bill to the Select Committee of Parliament where the civil rights issues contained within Bill can be addressed.
The Commission said it is aware of the reasons for the introduction of the Bill as well as the hazards which it addresses, in addition to the international obligations that were signed onto by Guyana.
However, the PSC says it views as inconsistent the Administration’s belief that “the World Health Organisation’s Protocols dictate that Government should not engage in dialogue with the tobacco industry.”
As such the PSC posited that “ours is an independent jurisdiction called Guyana and most democracies were built on dialogue… The Select Committee of Parliament is a platform which belongs to the people of Guyana and we join in the call by the industry to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.”
The Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO) has said that while it is not opposed to the new regulations, the new Tobacco Control Bill which was passed in the National Assembly on July 27, has several clauses that are socially and economically prohibitive and needs to be amended.
The Tobacco company through its Managing Director, Maurlain Kirton, on Wednesday, called on President David Granger to send the Bill 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 the citizens of Guyana.
“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,” Kirton asserted in a media briefing.
The company also expressed disappointment with the fact that they were not given the full opportunity to have a formal consultation with the Government regarding the Bill.
While noting that DEMTOCO is one of the largest private sector companies in Guyana, contributing $4B in revenues for 2016, Kirton said that with the current restrictions included in the bill, this could lead to a loss in revenue.
Meanwhile, Public Health Minister, Volda Lawerence, when questioned about the concerns raised by DEMTOCO on the sidelines of Parliament on Thursday, said that Government is not inclined to reconsider the Bill or have it sent to a Select Committee before the President gives his assent.
Lawrence posited that Government’s position is premised on the responsibilities that it has towards ensuring the nation’s health is maintained.
She said that the cancer caused from first and second hand smoking is the 2nd leading cause of deaths in Guyana and the revenue generated from the sales of tobacco cannot compensate for the costs expended by government on health care.
Moreover, the Minister posited, among other things, that the sale of the product is not being banned and vendors would still be able to sell on the roadside even though provisions in the Bill bans the sale and smoking of cigarettes in public places.