Tobacco control

Today is world no tobacco day. And, not coincidentally, the Parliament, in a joint sitting, discussed the Tobacco Control Bill. The bill had already been debated in both the Houses last year – today’s discussions were to iron out the differences between the two Houses.

Parliament will probably pass the Tobacco Control Bill tomorrow. And I am concerned.

I’m concerned that we will pass a law that the government will not be able to enforce: a law that criminalizes the sale of cigarettes, but permits smoking, even in designated public spaces.

The proposed law imposes hefty penalties on people who sell tobacco and tobacco products – “punishable with misdemeanor”. And it imposes heftier penalties for those who smuggle tobacco – “punishable with a minimum sentence of felony of fourth degree”. But still, rest assured, a black market for cigarettes and, more so, for the ubiquitous khaini with thrive.

I repeat: 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.


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  1. Sometimes, I wonder, why we are wasting millions in National Assembly sessions.
    All they discuss is MPs benefits, if they are not discussing MPs benefits, then all they discuss is Meat ban, tobacco ban and plastic ban.
    Are they too stupid to realize simply banning stuff you don’t like is not going to work. What they need is education. You can only take a horse to water, but 20 cannot make it drink.
    Bhutan is already famous for introducing laws that does not make sense, but have no resource or dedication to implement them.
    Learn from your past mistakes.

  2. It is yet another chapter to savour in the anthology of ‘freakonomics’. There is a Lhotsampa saying that seemingly explains the dichotomy of this regulatory framework. It says ‘the moustache can never wedge the mouth from eating’. The bill allows consumer to use the products. But places stringent repercussions on the supply side. There is a huge ‘gap’ in the demand-supply relationship. Somehow the unorganized sectors will make it possible to bridge this gap.

  3. Practising GNH says

    How can we convince the smokers that it is harmful to THEIR health?
    It is only when someone is at the ICU Ward in Hospital when they are put with all kinds of life-support equipment that people realise the mistake and by then it is almost too late and to sad a news for all. Efforts are made but I think banning the tobacco products cannot stop people from smoking and as long as people smoke, tobacco products can keep coming in, no matter from where. The only thing to do here is education and awareness making people understand that they waste their meaningful lives by smoking tobacco. It is like committing suicude. This goes same with doma pani, ara, and changs of all kinds. I think we should close the AWPs and divert some money spent for health to where needed. It is useless to make money on one hand and spend on the other. Let us show the way to the world that we are GNH society and we do not need laws to stop people from doing things. They do by themselves with realisation. Let us all stop drinking and smoking and convince our neighbours, friends, relatives to stop smoking. Each of us can just try to change the mind of one person and it will be a great effect. We are less than a million and it can be done. I think tobacco and alcohol products should all contain the pictures of diseases caused by these substances so as to remind and scare people.

  4. Kuensel – “Any Bhutanese found smuggling, supplying or distributing tobacco products shall be punishable with a minimum sentence of felony of fourth degree – a prison term ranging from three to five years without thrimthrue (payment in lieu of imprisonment)”.
    Its just so easy to say that kind of stuff. Last time , its the ‘ban of sale of tobacco product’.Everyone knows it didn’t work and now another decision that will definately not work. So, next time, I won’t be suprised if its decided that Tobacco Companies will be sued for ….

  5. guluphulu says

    I totally agree with opposition leader and BAN/prohibition never works. And what’ about doing the same for alcohol which is a much bigger killer and social ill

  6. The whole session on the tobacco bill was chidish with people who neither had enforcement experience nor requisite knowledge on practical application of law. Further the bill framers should have been inclusive and exhaustive of peopel with experience in areas mentioned. I agree with the OL and we are concerned by the type of bills being cursorily passed without involving major players in the field like the customs, the police, the trade and the practicing judges(qualified ones)who could have made major and crucial difference. Of course, there’s always a time for amemndment of the bill, though a fair amount of damage would have already been done! Sad it is.
    Recently I visited Gangtok and noticed ‘No Smoking’ sign boards across the main street and people told me it was very effective I didn’t see a single smoker! In our case, we go on complicating our system and ourselves no end. Nobody and nothing can hurt us Bhutanese except ourselves and we want export GNH!

  7. tobacco is one of the leading cause of death in the world. As such, it is important that consumption of tobacco is regulated because it causes huge negative externalities and impacts on the society.
    the ban on the sales of tobacco implemented a few years ago as we all know have failed. while, some products got ceased, the black marketing ( an un intended consequences of the policy) is still thriving.
    This might be an indication that perhaps the total ban on sale of the tobacco is not the right approach. tobacco consumption is not just a problem close to home. Many countries in the world face similar if not more severe problems related to tobacco consumption. however, there are not one country that totally banned it. The principle behind it also being that smoking or chewing tobacco is a personal choice and when somebody smokes they make a rational choice of both accounting for expenses and health effects.
    AS such, these countries have chosen to levy huge taxes to these products in order to make it more expensive to smoke. These policy is supported by educational programs that create awareness among the general public about harmful effects of tobacco. In less than ten years tobacco consumption has declined tremendously. further, these policies are also backed by regulating banning smoking in public areas.
    For a policy to work i beleive foundations need to be created . An act such as the one being passed is truly dictative and will be recieved negatively by the people. And in Bhutan at least will not be taken seriously like other banning policies such as plastic.
    Bhutan is a Buddhist country and we advocate that smoking is a sin. Eating meat is considered a sin too, and that doesn;t mean that we pass a policy saying everyone in the country should turn into vegetarian.
    I really hope that the Govt. has considered all possibilities ( both positive and negative) while framing this policy. I also hope that a plan of action on how to implement/enforce the policy is also in place. I hope that other sectors such as the private sectors, MOEF, RBP, Customs and all relevant organizations have been consulted as well. And most importantly I hope that this act has the blessing of the people of Bhutan.

  8. citizen man says

    Don’t you think that our system is already over flowing with policies that are being not followed? Isn’t it the time to think out of the box? Some of you have said that the rules should be strict or people should know the effects of tobacco. Which smoker does not know about its effect? When I smoked my first cigarette I felt cool because I did it in the school. I would have done that even if the ban existed. Similarly ban does not mean much to people who smoke, it means a lot to people who sale them. They are making a very good profit with tobacco sale. There are very less or no surprise checks and the business are thriving. Look at the school kids for instance. If the ban worked, by now we would have had a large portion of students not smoking. It has rather created bigger hole in our pockets and is becoming a major problem to measure the economy as it is creating black money which goes unaccounted.
    I am not saying the ban should be lifted; I am only confused like the opposition leader. If the act allows the consumption and restricts the sale who wouldn’t be? Alcohol should have been banned first, tobacco second and start looking for other things that should be banned. There must be some kind of way out of here and we rest this to the lawmakers; we will follow them and it should also be known that we like following laws that can be practiced. My point is clear, let us have policies which make difference.
    There are OTHER serious problems which require immediate attention. Though there are no proper studies done I hear from people that Bhutan might have one of the highest rates of drug users. Sit in the clock tower and over hear some conversation. I am sure that you will hear one of our youth making a drug deal over the phone. I am really worried that soon we might have high end drugs entering Bhutan if there is nothing much done about it. We cannot fine or imprison our youth for using drugs, instead do something to keep them away from it. Go and see how Chang-Jiji is planned if you don’t know what i mean. What is there to keep our youth busy, illegal bars? Does it have any kind of place where our youth can train themselves to become a better and a broad minded citizen?
    Why don’t we use some time for brain storming for the drug problem instead of debating on a bill which looks like it’s going to fail again. I may be immature with my ideas but I am a concerned citizen. Let’s prioritize things.

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