Following a tip-off from some Thimphu schools, the Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA), the regional trade officials, and the Royal Bhutan Police went on an inspection and confirmed the sale of tobacco products to students.
Two teams searched two shops at Changeddaphu and three shops at the hospital area.
The two teams in total seized about 25 packets of cigarettes, few packets of biri (locally made cigarettes), and few packets of chewing tobacco from two shops, and a sizable amount of tobacco products from one of the shops.
The Legal Officer of BNCA, Sonam Tshering, said more than 4000 sticks of cigarettes and 400gms of chewing tobacco was seized from the first shop.
The second shop had about 1000 sticks of cigarettes, more than 1000 pieces of biri, and about 3200gms of chewing tobacco.
The third shop had about 300 sticks of cigarettes but the cigarettes were within permissible amount, so the shopkeeper said it was for personal consumption. However since he did not have a tax receipt, a penalty of Nu 10,000 will be imposed.
It’s general knowledge that shopkeepers cater to people from all walks of life, civil servants, law enforcement personnel, medical professionals, policy makers, home makers, youth, and foreign laborers.
A shopkeeper in the area who spoke to The Bhutanese said when there were such inspections the shops usually stopped its sale, for a period but resumed the usual business.
The Deputy Chief Program Officer of BNCA, Sonam Dorjee said, despite all the advocacy and dissemination of lawful and unlawful provisions, shopkeepers still sell the prohibited products.
“Even after several programs carried out, these shopkeepers are still taking risks, they will be dealt by the court,” said Sonam Dorjee.
He said it’s a huge challenge for the agency because Bhutanese people don’t comply with the provisions in the Act. “People’s support is equally important,” he said.
After a year and a half of implementation of the Tobacco Act, three inspections have been carried out in Thimphu, two in Phuentsholing, two in Samdrup Jongkhar, and one at Paro.
Due to lack of manpower, the BNCA is unable to conduct such inspections often. The tobacco control unit at the BNCA has just one officer.
The BNCA plans to conduct a full scale global youth tobacco survey and a global adult survey, these studies are being planned between 2012 and 2013.