Parliament passes Tobacco Control Bill

Yesterday, as expected, the joint sitting of the Parliament passed the Tobacco Control Bill. Support for the Bill was almost unanimous. 61 of the 65 MPs present and voting endorsed the Bill, whereas only 4 of them rejected it.

I was in the minority.

Tobacco control is a good idea. But the Bill that we just passed is not.

The main principle in the Bill does not make sense: that people are permitted to consume tobacco, but that the sale of tobacco products is illegal. And that the sale of tobacco is illegal, but that tobacco consumers are permitted to import tobacco products.

The penalties in the Bill are draconian: selling tobacco will get you a misdemeanor (one to three years in jail); and smuggling will land you a felony of the fourth degree (three to five years of mandatory jail sentence). But that will not deter the black market. So either our jails will crowd. Or the law will be ignored. Obviously neither is good for us.

Tobacco control is a good idea. But the Bill that we just passed is not.

I hope I am wrong. I hope that the wisdom of my colleagues, the majority, will prevail. And that we will be able to control, reduce and eventually eradicate tobacco consumption.


Facebook Comments:


  1. It is like beating a dead horse. It is okay to make a mistake once, everyone does, but not to learn from mistake is a sign of foolishness.
    Simply putting people in jail and banning tobacco is not going to help anyone, jail can be used for worse criminals.
    The government can make money while regulating tobacco if they just tax them. Use the tax money to create awareness and educate people on tobacco.
    Banning tobacco is only creating more black markets and those benefits no one, except create more criminals.
    I understand that DPT votes on party lines, but where did the brain of National Council members go. This is simply frustrating. I wish members of both uppper and lower house develop some brains. When something does not work, it means try diffrent things.
    You know what the great Albert Einstein said,
    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ”
    This is what out lawmakers are.

  2. don’t the member of the parliament read at all. there are so many researches done all over the world about tobacco control policies….
    We claim to learn from the mistakes of others. How is this learning from others … how is this learning from the mistakes we made in the past…..

    Wait a minute…. of course they won;t read.. they are bunch of absolutely stupid people who have never read a policy paper let alone develop and approve one. They are just following orders of people who put gave them those posts in the first place so that they can continue to enjoy thier perks.
    This to me is a bigger crime tham smuggling tobacco…
    this is corruption at its highest !!!!

  3. I think i agree with the act coz it is allowing one to smoke which is fundamental right of every individual. As of getting access to tobacco, if one really wants to smoke, we can get from Indian border towns which of course after paying certain tax to the government. The allowable amount to import and other details, i am sure, they will specify clearly in their regulation. I have so many smoking friends who actually want to quit but they can’t coz it is easily available in the black market. So, with stringent law i am sure black market will reduce substantially. Earlier act was bit lenient in the sense, people can easily walk away after paying fine if they are caught but now they can’t and it will certainly deter. Earlier, it was worth taking risk coz even u r caught, u can easily pay from the profit u have u have made. Now, this stringent act will surely reduce black market and smokers in the country. So, my point is, if we want to ban, then ban it with stringent law or else don’t ban at all.

  4. Samdrups, black market is going to exist no matter what the goverment does, the smart thing would be to regulate it and tax them.
    Look at prostitution and drug trading, almost every country in the world makes it illegal, yet they exist everywhere. Even one of the richest nation in the world, like the United States, cannot control drug trafficking, no matter how much it tries.
    Compared to them, Bhutan government does not have resource or manpower to handle such laws.

  5. truth

    yeah, i agree with u that black market will be there but number will vary with severity of law. If it is lenient, everybody will do that and it will be accessible everywhere but if it is stringent, then many will give second thought before venturing into this kind of risky business. That way it will reduce the accessibility of tobacco and hopefully at least my children will not be using it ….anyway, this is just my thought and i maybe wrong.

  6. i think the concern is that it will exist no matter what…black market is not good …. its illegal……

  7. samdrup, Your freinds will not stop smoking if they are not ready no matter what . they will find a way. tobacco is the one of the world’s largest inelastic product… which means the demand doesn;t change much due to change in the price. so if black market exists , people who smoke are going to continue to no matter what. Further, people who can’t afford it will sometimes look for other means such as asking others and if that doesn’t work stealing too.
    I still think that a tax that also regulates the quantity of tobacco brought into the country would be the best approach. The current act is not only forceful but also a lazy one. why i call is lazy is because, throwing people into the jail is easier. Pronoucing this one time verdict is also easier than dealing with creating partnership within the departments to see how each of them can play a role controlling the use f tobacco..and this act will save a lot of paper work for framing the alternative policy, developing tools to collecting taxes and creating materials for education purposes.

  8. What the Government really needs to do is:

    1. prohibit smoking in public designated
    areas and ACTUALLY enforce this rule.
    2. place high tax on import/sale of tobacco
    products rather than make it illegal to
    sell them. This would increase the price
    of tobacco products, and I am certain
    that the demand would actually go down.
    The government would also be able to
    generate additional revenue.

  9. where is the education for children about health risks of smoking? where is the enforcement of existing fines for smoking in bars and restaurants? where is the shaming of smokers through highlighting of risks to children of smoking parents? sucessful action means convincing people to view smoking as a filthy habit instead of as a glamorous vice. i agree that this vote is very lazy and counterproductive. but please, as the opposition, push a good alternative plan, dont just criticise. thank you again for your good work.

  10. Did you guys discuss anything about those people at the check posts who let these tobacco smugglers to pass the check points?

    What law do we have for the Army trucks (both RBA and Imtrats vehicles) that might smuggle the tobacco products into the Bhutanese towns (because they are let to pass without having to undergo inspection at the checkpoints either at Kharbandhi, Tanalung or Chunzom).

    Does our honorable Tshogpoen smoke or what? He was being so protective against the Labour Minister’s proposal to discourage people from smoking at all. I appreciated Dasho Damcho Dorji in what he said.
    Rest of the MPs and NCs are but a bunch of fools gathered in the Assembly Hall out of sheer luck and coincidence (Ministers excluded. Good news for you! Smile…)

  11. Dear Tshering, Eventually majority counts. Hence, I really don’t see light at the end of this discussion. It is better to let it be as proposed. And instead review the operational part of it during the next session of Parliament, next year. I am sure the approving majority will understand the pragmatic side of it then. Many laws are amended based on lessons leart and the manner in which it will be implemented.

  12. Practising GNH says

    I do not think that increasing tax on tobacco is a total solution to stop tobacco. What would happen is people will perceive tobacco as a product of differentiation. Those who smoke tobacco would be seen as someone with money and people would be tempted to smoke. I think this is how many people start smoking. People begin smoking to “show off” and then they get caught in addiction. It should be banned in public places with a huge fine being imposed. Why should a non-smoker be the victim of smelling the foul, dirty smoke coming from someone’s mouth and nose? I think the non-smokers should demand that people who smoke leave the place. We have to develop such a culture. People who smoke in public should be seen as someone disrespectful of others. It is so. You can sense the harm then and there only. Your eyes start to feel irritation, your nose gets blocked and you feel a sense of suffocation when someones smokes near you. It is terrible.

  13. I am totally against what samdrup has stated,
    Yea we knw dat every individual has his/her right to smoke or chew tobacco but I think what we are trying to say is that the bill what has been passed is totally working as what they have passed.I think that really shows the effictiveness of the leader.Yes, we,I every individual appreciate with the idea of tobacco ban bt isn’t there anyone who nver use any type of tobbacco from the law maker???????I think there will be and from where they get those thing????? definately from nearby shops. Am I right????? or are they travelling to other country to smoke or to get their stock as soon as they finish with the stock????? No way I have seen with my own eye as well as I caught many law maker smoking in prohibted places and many shops in the country selling tobacco products.How can we ban and implement the bill when media people,police force and even trade people cant do anything to shop owners those who sells tobacco product instead they use to buy from them. Do you think that it will work?????? If it works then it is the greatest achievement and the law makers will be highly respected and appreciated bt if it fails law makers should feel that you all are like puppet.To work I think every vehicle should be checked thrughly at Tanalum bt the surprising is that the some police who stationed at this place are smoking freely. From where they get these thing?Every shop at Thimphu, paro and Haa,Wangdue Chukha should give surprise check and if they are caught their licence should be cancelled. If you all do these for few months then I will work.YYYYYYYYY dnt you give sme authority to school scout students just to report if they happen to come up but concern authority should give support. If we all work hand in hand there wont be impossible

  14. Lotey

    That is why now they made very stringent law whereby one will have to stay in prison for 3 to 5 yrs if they are caught smuggling. Earlier act was bit lenient and one can easily walk away after paying fine. So, with this revised act i am hopeful that such products will not be readily available in “nearby shops”. If one still finds in nearby shops then probably we should do away with ban. So, for the moment, let us see how it works. It is too early make any conclusive judgment whether it will work or not!

  15. If the government’s intention is to completely ban smoking in the country, make it crystal clear that tobacco and other related products are not seen inside the country. Make it a compulsory law to punish each and everyone who are found dealing with such business,not like punishing those who sells and not those who consume. When a country like Singapore could ban import and sell of chewing gums which is less harmful than tobacco, why cant we ban the sell and import of tobacco?

  16. Yes, I agree with what Kezangs said bt I think to make it crystal clear will be toughest thing at the first moment. yea, as you said we can make ban of tobacco in our country ONLY if the bill which was passed recently should be imposed stricly without corruption by concern authority.
    I think if people are found smoking in public places they should be questioned and punished.

  17. Confused Civil Servant says


    I am a civil servant. Can I participate in this political forum?
    If Yes, please make the position of the civil servant with respect to politics clear on the ongoing National Assembly discussion. Civil servants are still not sure whether they should participate in these kind of forums or remain apolitical and be like statues.
    Please clarify. Thank you.

    A Confused Civil Servant

    • You decide …

      Article 7 (Fundamental Rights) Section 2 of the Constitution: A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression

      The Civil Service Bill (which could prohibit civil servants from making certain remarks) has not yet been enacted

      Article 2 Section 10 of the Constitution: …. the provisions of any law, whether made before or after the coming into force of this Constitution, which are inconsistent with this Constitution, shall be null and void.

      Article 26 Section 1 of the Constitution: There shall be a Royal Civil Service Commission, which shall promote and ensure an independent and apolitical civil service …

  18. I totally agree with a lot of people above on the issue that the ban simply might not work.

    Did the government in the first place found a solution to the existing problem with a huge stock of tobacco products seized at the checkpoints? Is it illegal for DRC to auction that to Indian people across the border. Tobacco is not banned there! And we should not worry about it. Use the money for awareness campaigns.

    If we cannot deal with a small problem, seemingly small I agree! the other issues seems far harder and impossible.

    I think what we need is a strong advocacy and awareness in schools and institutions with proper monitoring. If kids don’t start from high school or college level, where parents and still still have control, things will be fine.
    Will school authorities now expel students if found smoking? or its their private lives?

  19. Confused Civil Servant says


    Thank you for your kind response. If Article 2 Section 10 of the Constitution says: …. the provisions of any law, whether made before or after the coming into force of this Constitution, which are inconsistent with this Constitution, shall be null and void,
    then the provision in the Civil Service Bill will be considered null and void. Is that right, sir?

    If Article 7 (Fundamental Rights) Section 2 of the Constitution says that ‘A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression’, why does article 26 Section 1 of our Constitution contradict the above article and deprieve the civil servants of their fundamental rights to freedom of speech, opinion and expression.

    Hmmm…very interesting. Simply stated, I think this can be very well interpreted as follows:

    1. Cigarettes is Banned in Bhutan, smoking is not (as some newspapers humoriously quoted sometime back)

    2. Civil servants are banned from politicking, their participation in politics is not (I don’t know if I am making myself clear).

  20. What i fail to understand is that how is tobacco different from Doma? If they think there is a need to ban Tobacco then they should ban doma too.


  1. […] That would only be fair, since we, MPs, were the ones who passed this draconian law. […]

  2. […] rather than alcohol and drugs. Truth, a commenter on Tshering Tobgay's blogpost titled “Parliament passes Tobacco Control Bill” says: It is like beating a dead horse. It is okay to make a mistake once, everyone does, but […]

  3. […] rather than alcohol and drugs. Truth, a commenter on Tshering Tobgay’s blogpost titled “Parliament passes Tobacco Control Bill” says: It is like beating a dead horse. It is okay to make a mistake once, everyone does, but […]

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