Smoking bill

smoking2The National Assembly passed the Tobacco Control Bill today. The most important, and contentious, part of the Bill bans the sale of tobacco products in the country, but permits smoking in designated areas.

I am proud of our antismoking heritage. Our forefathers always frowned on tobacco consumption. We hold the distinction of having the world’s oldest tobacco control law, passed in the 17th Century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. And, in the last decade, we have gained international recognition for our efforts to control the consumption of tobacco.

So I support the Government’s initiatives to develop tobacco control legislation. But, the proposed laws must be realistic and enforceable. And the Tobacco Control Bill is neither.

The contradiction in the Bill is obvious: if selling tobacco is illegal, how would smokers get hold of their cigarettes? The answer to that is also quite obvious: the black market. As long as there are smokers, people will find ways of supplying them with the tobacco. Yes, that would be illegal. And yes, that would be risky. But no, no amount of policing would put an end to the already thriving black market for tobacco products. (The Bill does permit the import of tobacco for personal consumption. But that would be limited to the select few who travel by air.)

Put simply, I don’t see the logic in allowing people to smoke if we ban the sale of tobacco products. And I don’t see how we can implement a ban on only the sale of tobacco products if our laws permit the consumption of tobacco.

Instead, treat tobacco like illegal drugs, and ban both the sale and consumption of tobacco products.

Or better still, go with the National Council’s decision to permit the sale of tobacco products, but at higher prices and only to adults.

 

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  1. I never understood, why we Bhutanese are so Ban-happy. We are always quick to ban things but never have enough man power or dedication to follow through it.
    Banning things we do’t like never achieves success. Rather than banning, we should be educating. Banning also creates black market which does not benefit the government or innocent people, but black market benefits only criminals. Instead of banning why don’t we impose higher taxes, that way it creates a revenue source for the government isntead of money going to criminals. Also the bill says we might imprison the offenders, instead of filling prisons with smoker why not use the prison for serious criminals.
    We should also overturn the ban on plastics and eating meat.Instead tax on plastic bags and make revenue for the government, if we want to control.
    Just my two cents.

  2. Invisible says:

    I agree with OL that ban will not be enforceable. I agree with aludorji that “we are always quick to ban things but never have enough man power or dedication to follow through it.” If I may add one more thing, we are also quick to give Keynote speeches but never have enough manpower or dedication to follow through it.

    During course of my work for the last 3 years (due to the nature of my work), I have seen “dis-harmony” among our laws and that is killing our people alive. I will have to bring that story someday soon in a separate article.

    Respects,
    Invisible

  3. Aro Khampa says:

    I think permitting the sale of tobacco products, but at higher prices (i.e. high tax) is a sensible way to control tobacco. This is also the method adopted in many advanced countries. But then we must have a tighter border control with India else cheaper sellers from black market will come in again.

    I also think that any form of ban is a method best kept for the past. Now with democracy and freedom, ban is can be a rule that may be proposed by those who cannot think.

    To me personally, alcohol does more damage than tobacco. No only the drinker but his whole family is affected by it. So I would rather focus more on alcohol than tobacco.

    In any case, both tobacco and alcohol are minor problems facing Bhutan today. I am not sure why our politicians spend lots of precious time on these things.

    The more crucial problem for Bhutan I think is the state of our miserable economy or lack of it. We should ask ourselves how much longer we are going to run our country on foreign aid. How much longer are we going to ask India, Japan or Netherlands to build a bridge or a farm road for us because we are poor and cannot afford? How much longer are we going to use the “no budget” excuse for everything that needs to be done? How much longer are we going to use “no technical expertise” excuse?

    The other isolated but yet much related problem is the unemployment. How are we going to give jobs to graduates coming in thousands each year? The RCSC takes in only few hundreds and more than 50% of them cannot find jobs. What is the use of building more schools and sending people for higher education if there are no job opportunities later on? The growing number of unemployed and thus disillusioned youths will only be a cause of social problems later on.

    How are we going to alleviate the poverty of 23% of the population? What about malnourished children and adults in the villages that constitute 70% of Bhutan? How to go about the huge income disparity between the rich and poor? At present I think about 5% of the people (families) earn more than 50% of the private assets in Bhutan. This should be cause of concern for any country, even more so in land know for GNH. There are many more fundamental problems facing Bhutan and yet the government is focusing always on trivial things like how people should dress, smoke or eat. I think we have much work to be done. If our Bhutanese problems are all about clothes, smoking and food habits, then we need not have so many discussions in a National Assembly.

  4. This is ludicrous! By permitting smoking in certain areas, the government is succumbing to a thriving, illegal activity of cigarette supplies within the country. Its an admittance of their knowledge in the increase of black market sales. I don’t know if it’s just me but this bill sounds absolutely absurd. CLEARLY, the ban is NOT working. I’d go with the National Council to permit sales with higher sales tax and should definitely be only restricted to adults. I think it’d be of great help if they come up with more advertisements to discourage smoking. Quite frankly, I think it’s there only to “hold the distinction” of being an anti-smoking nation.
    sigh…

  5. We are so good at coming up with ‘perfect on paper policies’. Tell me if i am wrong but i always get the impression that our “policy makers” somehow always manages to come up with policies that are pretty, pretty, great sounding, image selling kind of thing….that is off by a long shot from ground reality and is oh so not made for actual implementation. Take GNH, the meat ban and second round of Tobacco ban. The first tobacco ban resulted in 100 % price increase (does that contribute towards inflation???), we still get meats in the hotels during the ban periods (did it not result in some serious cases of food poisioning??). For want of time i think this time the NC has their head in the right place.

  6. Is there anything that will work in Bhutan?

    1. NAPE system did not work.
    2. Plastic ban is lot of inconvenience.
    3. Tobacco ban is not working.
    4. PCS is obviously failing.
    5. McKinsey will not work.
    6. 100% FDI will be disastrous.
    7. Democracy will not work if our people are neither allowed to see the deliberations in the National Assembly nor are they freely allowed to express their disagreement with the government through peaceful demonstrations. There is no other avenues for the people to express their disagreements at all.

    Then perhaps they will come up with alcohol ban, divorce ban, jeans ban, religion ban, creative ban, meat ban……and so many other utopian ideas…..in the end, our country will have all the good things in the world and yet have nothing in it. We will neither be materially enhanced nor spiritually enriched. We will be in a BARDO.

  7. ‘Instead, treat tobacco like illegal drugs, and ban both the sale and consumption of tobacco products’
    Why does this sound like a bad idea to me?
    i know smokers, i know they do not have the inclination to stop..treating them like drugusers will not mean that they will start viewing themselves as such. they wont stop. so all that we will be doing is making criminals out of perfectly law abiding citizens sounds communistic to me, and a bad bad idea.
    I like the NC solution better. Making smoking expensive, so that the people choose to stop it for the sake of their purses if not for their health. and in the end, if people want to get lung cancer for the sake of the joy of a few puffs of noxious smooke, turning a blind eye to religion, health, it is their own chioice. people have a right to make their own choices, right or wrong.

  8. we will live one day to hear our PM saying “we failed to implement the tobacco bill”

    There is a genuine need for “generation management”.

    • Yes Zalla, you are absolutely right. We need a “generation management”. We need to instill a bigger sense of accountability in our country, especially our high ranking officials and the politicians. Whenever they come up with some new ideas, they implement their ideas right away without listening much to what the people have to say about it. They always say they are doing the “best thing” for our country but when the projects do not work, nobody takes the responsibility for it. Nobody accounts for wasting millions of ngultrums into the projects which ultimately produced unwanted effects or produced something of very low quality. The officials and the politicians are paid highly to make good plans but when their plans fail, they say their job ended with the “planning” per se. Failure or success of their plans have got nothing to do with them. Nobody speaks of it. That is so unfortunate of our country.

      You see, in the latest corruption case of the Ministry of Health, the ACC is only playing with the “chamchagiris”. Nothing is done to the Secretary, to the Directors and other big bosses in the Health who plundered the government millions of ngultrums and built gigantic buildings,bought flashy landcruisers and bought lands all over the place. They are the people involved directly or indirectly in the corruption cae. Even if they are not directly involved in the corruption, as a civil servant who is paid high salaries and given lavish allowances to travel easily around the country to ensure every plans are implemented properly and every single chhetrum is spent wisely as intended to the best utility for the country and the people, it is their failure to discharge their duties to allow such corruptions to occur under their very nose and so they must be held accountable for the corruption in the first place. But that is not happening and so no matter how many “little chamchagiris” are suspended or terminated, the bigger villians will continue to exist and therefore corruption will perpetuate forever in our country.

  9. Do you know where I can get a copy of the bill? thank you

  10. neewang says:

    is good that the ban shood be strongly inforce in bhutanese socity.not with putting in act.

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