No licensed cigarette importers since 2013: MoH

National 2 minutes, 35 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

THERE are currently no licensed importers of cigarettes in Brunei, after the last three importers opted to not renew their licenses in 2013, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Head of MoH’s Health Enforcement Unit Hjh Norliza Hj Abd Halim told The Brunei Times recently that all three licensed importers were due to renew their licenses during the middle of 2013, but failed to do so.

“The annual licence for importation expires in the middle of the year. In 2013, there were three companies with this licence in Brunei. These licences expired in June 2013, and none applied for a renewal,” she said.

Hjh Norliza clarified that there is currently no outright ban on the importation or retail of cigarettes, but stringent standards, as stated under the Tobacco Order 2005, have been set in place before any licences are issued. Both importer and retailer have to be operating from proper business premises with business license.

“There are numerous regulations that have to be met. For one, retailers cannot display cigarettes in public view at their stores, and a notice clearly displaying no sale to anyone below 18 years of age must be posted up.

“The cigarette packs must also display graphic warning labels. Then there is duty or tax on the cigarettes which has to be paid,” she said.

Hjh Norliza added that the Health Enforcement Unit was actively enforcing the Tobacco Order 2005, which covers a wide range of prohibitions regarding the sale, promotion and consumption of tobacco in the country.

Last year, 224 people – the majority of them Bruneians – were issued fines under the Tobacco Order 2005 for smoking in public. Over 80 per cent of them were between the ages of 18 to 55.

“To classify as proof, we need to catch people smoking red-handed before we are able to issue a fine. Many times when our officers approach these smokers in public places, they have gotten aggressive,” she said.

The Tobacco Order 2005 has provisions for charging those found smoking in prohibited places for up to $1,000 in court. The Health Enforcement has opted to issue summons instead, which require the offender to pay a compound fine of $300 for the first offence, and $500 for subsequent offences within a period of ten days to MoH.

“We would also like to make it clear that e-cigaretes or ‘vaping’ in place where smoking is prohibited is also considered an offence, and we have already issued a compound fine to a member of the public found doing so in a café this year,” said Hjh Norliza.

Places where smoking is prohibited include sidewalks or walkways and within the six-metre distance from the building lines, government premises (which include any area within the building and also any adjoining land used in connection therewith and also includes a vehicle), all educational institutions, restaurants or eating places including the outdoor dining areas, stairways and restrooms in all shopping malls, office premises and restaurants.

Members of the public are also urged to report any activity related to smoking offences under the Tobacco Order 2005 to the Health Enforcement Unit via the hotline number 7192005 or through health.enforcement@moh.gov.bn.

The Brunei Times