Thumbs up on Tobacco Ban
Bhutan’s opposition leader Tshering Tobgay, made headlines last month when he condemned the country’s anti-smoking law, the strictest in the world, calling it “utter madness” after another group of people were sent to prison for possessing cigarettes. Mr. Tobgay argued that “support for tobacco control may be high, but that does not mean that we are willing to send fellow citizens to jail for possessing small amounts of tobacco.”
Meanwhile, speaking of the “tyranny of the majority” while explaining how the law came into being, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmy Y. Thinley made it clear that the lawmakers have been persuaded by their voters for strict rules and regulations to ensure the eradication and elimination of tobacco use in the country.
Since the Kingdom of Bhutan’s smooth transition to democracy in 2008, the population has found few issues to get riled up about. However, Bhutan’s tobacco ban has become the biggest exception. While opposition leaders are confident that political campaigning on digital media will help make a difference, the law which reflects the will of the majority and popular opinion in Bhutan is unlikely to change any time soon.
A government report issued earlier this month, showed that 94% of Bhutanese who were surveyed said they were in favor of the tobacco ban. Few of the country’s roughly 700,000 people actually consume tobacco, making the Himalayan kingdom one of the countries with the lowest smoking rates in the world, according to the report.
Bhutan’s 2010 Tobacco Control Act, which builds on an earlier ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products, prohibits smoking in most public places and sets severe penalties for tobacco smuggling.