Due to the increasing number of tobacco smuggling incidences along the porous southern borders and to reduce the threat of COVID-19 transmission, the ban on sale of tobacco was lifted.
An official from the Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) said that number of tobacco consumers willing to quit tobacco has increased due to the concern of excessive tobacco abuse, as it is now freely sold and bought. The official added that it will be challenging for the people wanting to quit tobacco to complete the detox treatment and come out clean.
Karma Choden, a registered help seeker who is undergoing the cessation therapy with Nicotex (4mg), said that she decided to quit smoking, firstly, because of her health issues, and secondly, due to the high cost of buying tobacco every month.
“I used to spend Nu 8,000 in a month, which I could have saved for something productive. Of course nobody forced me to spend on it, but if one understands what an addiction is then you will definitely understand why I spent that amount for such an impractical substance. That’s one big reason I decided to opt for help from BNCA and switched to Nicotex, but now, since the rates have decreased and its available in every shop, it has become challenging for me to continue with the treatment smoothly. I still have craving for a smoke every time I see people smoking or sense the smell of the cigarette,” said Karma.
Karma is hoping to complete her treatment without getting distracted.
Dorji Phuntsho, a recovering tobacco addict, said that he used to buy cigarettes from the black market and had also bought from the Bhutan Duty Free Limited even while the price was very high. But now, with the ban lifted, he said it has become convenient and affordable to buy tobacco. He added that it has become challenging for him to refrain from smoking cigarettes, but he said he had been trying to control the temptation. He said it might be hard for others to control their urge to cut down due to easy accessibility and reduced price of cigarettes.
Another recovering tobacco addict, Sonam, said that the accessibility to tobacco has not drastically brought changes in his decision to stop consuming tobacco. Although when he sees people smoking, the craving still triggers him to smoke and also because of 0 percent tax, he is tempted to buy cigarettes.
“Lifting the ban has cut prices but on the negative side, every smoker or baba consumer never runs out of tobacco. Therefore, the frequency of smoking pattern has increased due to the accessibility and low price,” said a college student who wished to remain anonymous.