July 10, 2007

Bhutan Smoking Ban Ineffective

When Bhutan banned smoking on December 2004. The Ban on tobacco sell through out Bhutan two years back has caused an increase in the Illegal trade of tobacco products to Bhutan. For few months the banned proved to be fruitful with all shops choosing to support government to make Bhutan Tobacco Free. The Tobacco has a great effect on the Bhutanese people whom most being a Buddhist belief that indulging in tobacco is a crime or against the Buddhism. But who has the out most belief in god when the sale of tobacco products fetch them good amount of money, indeed double the price compared to the ordinary selling price of the products, for instance a packets of Wills (Popular Smoke Brand) Cost NU 25 before and now after the imposed of ban, the shop keepers sells at Nu 50, a handsome quick money.

Forget about the money earned from sell of Tobacco products in Thimphu, Punakha, Paro, wangdiphodrang, for someone who sells in Bumthang, Trashigang, a packet of Cigarettes shoots between Nu 80-100. Good money indeed for the shop keepers. Do you think that ban would have effect on Tashi (name Changed) who has been smoking for the last 2 decades? Yes it does, he tries to quit but how can he manage it? The needs for people like Tashi has created a waves around all the pan shop(Small shops) in Thimphu where they secretly sell the Tobacco Product.

Government has taken it’s step in conveying the message to people, few shops are caught selling tobacco and their licensed sized and fine imposed, official from concern ministry made surprised checking and many more are caught and actions are taken. Yet shops keep selling it, isn’t it a good money and quick money, well the ban might have created a rush for all the people to quit smoking but the shop keepers are blessed with an opportunity to make good money. I personally feel that the smoking ban has been an ineffective since you step into any pan shops, you are bound to sneak with a packets or two though the price is doubled. The ban has caused the people to go more for it, you walk in the street, footpath or any restaurants, bar, discotheques and you will see people smoking, chewing. Tobacco products are seized along the way from Phuntsholing to Thimphu, some are hidden along the meats products, beneath trucks and lorry carrier, buses and other vehicles, yet it is found plenty in the markets.

For few businessmen, such malpractice has boosted their income. What can a government do when such malpractice prevails? It is the duty of every Bhutanese people to think about it and make Bhutan a smoking free nation. It will be a long journey for such a devoted Buddhist country to completely stop the ban of tobacco sell illegally. For those who have been smoking for years, I am sure most of the smoker is aware of a warning inscribed on it ‘Cigarettes Smoking is Injurious to Health’. Let’s respect that sentence. This is just the opinion of the author.

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