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From no teeth to teeth to false teeth?

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It was the implementation of the rule, which was weak, that it necessitated a proper law instead.

A law was crafted and tabled for parliamentarians to debate.

Merely having a law, experience showed, was not good enough, it had to be given teeth to bite violators with.

Parliamentarians deliberated and prescribed penalties so stringent that, in less than a month of its enforcement, it netted its first victim.

That was about the tobacco control law, which was a culmination of legislators’ frustrations over their inability to implement the law, despite initiating such a program several years ago.

Within six months, the number of people ending up behind bars increased to more than 30.

Irrespective of the amount of tobacco and its products a person was carrying, the law simply spelt out they be arrested and thrown behind bars for a minimum of three years.

People, mostly residing in urban areas, and those with internet access, began venting their grievances and criticisms over the severity of the law.

Some even ridiculed the penalty that equated a person in possession of tobacco with someone who committed the crime of manslaughter.

Facebook pages seeking amendment of the law were created, where people lobbied their legislators to shed off some of the ammunition the legislation was lavishly armed with.

Implementing agencies were soon forced to work on separate rules and regulations to mellow out the law, which was a year later, submitted to Parliament as an urgent bill to render it some clemency.

Ever since, there has been no reported case of people being lobbed into the cell.

While our parliamentarians are mulling over the upcoming elections, it is about time we ask if the Tobacco Control Act, which was so vehemently pushed, using all sorts of reasons and logic, from religion to scientific ones, has actually brought down tobacco consumption.

While there seems to be no benchmark to measure that, most Parliament members’ initial fears of the legislation reverting to its earlier toothlessness are probably proving true.

People, who used to smoke or chew tobacco, continue to do so, the same amount they did before the law came into being.

The thriving black market out there for peddlers is a proof of that.

Some shops selling tobacco and its products have been caught on a few occasions, had their tobacco products seized and fined Nu 10,000.

They continue with their prolific business that has helped them in terms of expanding and diversifying into other areas.

If only our legislators had listened to the domain of their heads, rather than of their hearts, to consider the many options that were laid in front of them by experts, of measures tested in other countries, and of successful policies other nations had adopted.

2 Comments to “From no teeth to teeth to false teeth?”
  1. Heavy Heart | January 9th, 2013 at 08:03:17

    The law criminalizes the consumer and has nothing to do with with health and religion. Before this law was enacted a tobacco consumer was normal, now tobacco user is a criminal and can be chargesheeted. It may be possible that you and i dont use tobacco but can we be sure that our son and grandsons won’t? Tobacco Act could have come from Choede Lhentshog and not from the parlaiment, because all arguments were religion based.
    Dont insult science, which of the parlaimentrians knew what nicotine does? Which receptors proteins recieve nocotine? What happens to nicotine after endosmosis into cells?
    Which is severe alcohol or tobacco? Which of the two has more effects in terms of health, mealth and family?
    Is alcohol connected with domestic voilence? Did our parlaimentarains had a brain to enact alcohol Act in place of domestic voilence Act and adoption Act together?
    The economy is blacked by the Act, only revengeful people will ever invoke any clause from that law again. Every panshop in Thimphu sell tobacco, including vegetable suppliers in the farmer’s market. Why was the law enacted if it i not implemented? Why is daily routine surprise check not done if the intention was to reduce tobacco consumption? Who is responsible for that?
    They had to revise marriage Act, Census Act, Land Act but failed, having a responsibility to do something they came up with Tobacco Act for timepass. No mind to serve nation, lip service loyalty is accepted by every Bhutanese and this is our weakness. Glory to Bhutan, Glory mankind

  2. Opinion | January 8th, 2013 at 14:36:09

    Well, it has gotten worse. I dont care about anything but I fear my kids are growing up to be smokers. It is sad to see so many kids smoking. They are so innocent and it appears COOL for them to smoke. The cheaply available tobacco makes to buy without any obstacle. The internet out cry was a small one. Few of the chain smokers repeated blogged and made it appear huge. There were equally people who were against protest moves by these smokers on internet. But who listened. I hope somebody keeps the count of people coming to hospital due to smoking. Also, I hope somebody keeps record of the money that is flowing out of the country for products like tobacco.

    The only way to control tobacco is stringent law and not by taxes. Developed world like UK has done it. Enforced mandatory laws. And here we are, so easily felled by 1% of the people. I am sure it is even less. Because some of the smokers supported the law and we know that statistics say 6% of the country are smokers which i doubt. I am sure it is much low.

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