Second hand smoke is everywhere
With the legalization of importation of tobacco products in the country, more and more people have started smoking freely everywhere, not minding who they are surrounded with. The selling and buying of the tobacco products were legalized in 2021 with the Amendment of the Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010.
There has always been a misconception among the public on the smoking area. They feel that they can smoke in public places just because the buying and selling of tobacco products are legalized, which is wrong.
Though individual is liable to pay a fine for smoking in the public places, the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) are exempting the fines for now because they are sensitizing people on the prohibited places since the Amendment.
The Officiating Director of BNCA, Ugyen Tshering, said that until the Act was amended, they have been penalizing individuals who have been smoking in the public places, and that was to ensure health safety amongst the non-smokers and to keep environment free from smoking.
“After the Amendment, we are exempting those smoking in the public places as they think that they are allowed to smoke because the buying is legal. To clear the misunderstandings, we are first sensitizing them on the misconception, and we are done with the sensitization in Thimphu,” he added.
In coming days, BNCA will issue a public notification on smoking in public being still illegal, and thereafter, if any individual is found smoking in public places, the person will then be penalized with Nu 500 per incident.
There shall be no excuses then, he said, the inspectors will be in the field monitoring. There is also a fine of Nu 10,000 if entertainment centers, offices and institutions do not have separate smoking rooms and for failure to put up no-smoking signs in their premises.
He said, “We are facing challenges in terms of monitoring, and we are worried and have a concern over more number of tobacco users in the country, including students. We are, however, giving our best and have informed our drop-in-center in districts to closely monitor and sensitize people on the matter.”
Moreover, BNCA in collaboration with other relevant stakeholder are carrying out vigorous patrolling to control illegal transaction of drugs and tobacco products. They are also closely monitoring those selling the products without the license.
Only the licensed traders are allowed to sell the tobacco products. The licensed traders will be issued with certain rules and regulation on who can sell and who cannot to sell. People who are caught selling tobacco products without the license will be fined ranging from Nu 5,000 to Nu 10,000.
Meanwhile, he said, “With the Amendment, people opting for Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) has reduced drastically. We used to cater the NRT services to 900 people in the past with a fund support from WHO, however, that has dissolved now. Moreover, we have no budget to carry out the program and no individual has come to seek the services.”