Tobacco control… calls on President to send bill to select committeeWhile recognising that Guyana has obligations to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO) has said it is not opposed to the new regulations.However, the company believes that the Bill is not only unbalanced, but is not justifiable, as it believes that there are less restrictive alternatives that are available.Managing Director of DEMTOCO, Maurlain Kirton addressing media operatives on WednesdayIn light of these issues, Managing Director of DEMTOCO, Maurlain Kirton therefore called on President David Granger to send the Bill to a select committee so that it can be properly analysed and reviewed to minimise the impact of the measures, not only for the industry but also for the citizens of Guyana.Kirton told a media conference on Wednesday that the principal concern for her company is to ensure that when policymakers institute laws such as these, they do not pass measures that are 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 asserted.While acknowledging that the Bill is seeking to prohibit smoking in public places aimed at protecting non-smokers, the company’s Managing Director highlighted that the Bill addresses many other areas of the industry to which the measures still require some further probing and amending, to ensure that they are not outright bans and draconian in their impact and interpretation.Kirton also believes that the definitions in the Bill are too vague and as such, she is requesting that it be properly reviewed before being assented to by President Granger. She said that the definition of the term “workplace”, as defined in the Bill, infringes upon the privacy of all Guyanese.“Imagine, if you hire any sort of help, be it a gardener, babysitter, or housekeeper even your home may now be considered a workplace based on the prevailing definition. This definition is too wide, and now raises questions of enforceability. How can this possibly be policed?” she questioned.The Managing Director told media operatives that the words, “place of collective use, regardless of ownership or right to access” should be removed from the said definition.She continued, “We also believe that public places, such as private entities and workplaces should be allowed by law, to set up adequately designated smoking areas. For example, factories, restaurants, bars, casinos, hotels, other workplaces or facilities that would be accessible to the public, should have such designated smoking areas that cater for both smokers and non-smokers alike.”More than that, however, the head of the company pointed out that selling tobacco products in trays is not unique to Guyana and by attempting to restrict this will have devastating effects. These people are often referred to as hawkers, and they will now be restricted to execute this trade, through the Bill. “It is our belief that the Government can in fact regulate hawkers, but in a way that will allow them to continue their trade with a stricter way of operation,” she added.The company expressed disappointment with the fact that they were not given the full opportunity to have a formal consultation with the Government regarding the Bill. “The industry is a key stakeholder of a legal product and should be consulted on any policies which are likely to affect the industry… From conventional wisdom, it would be regulatory best practice to allow all affected stakeholders to participate in the policy-making process, inclusive of the Tobacco Industry…,” she added.While noting that DEMTOCO is one of the largest Private Sector companies in Guyana, Kirton said that with the current restrictions included in the Bill, this could lead to a loss in revenue. According to her, while there is no study to prove this, from a business stands point, this is likely to happen for various reasons, especially since it has the potential to create market where people would evade taxes. In 2016, DEMTOCO contributed $4 billion in revenues.“Acknowledging that Bill is now passed and awaiting final signature from the President, the company maintains that it is still not too late to send the Bill to a joint Select Committee of the Parliament where some of contentious issues can be robustly reviewed. These are the industry’s main concerns which we have being sharing with various stakeholders,” Kirton stated.Years in the making, the Bill passed in the National Assembly on July 27 with most of the Opposition party abstaining from the vote. In her presentation, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence had argued that the Bill would rectify Guyana’s failure to fulfill its international and constitutional commitments.