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Let me ask you something, when you walk in Thimphu, do you see anyone smoking? That means we are on the right way to making Bhutan smoke-free," he says. He tried smoking once when he was young, but hated it so much that never lighted another cigarette."I don’t support the criminalisation of smokers, but I am proud that the laws here have made it more difficult to access cigarettes.
The strict laws have given rise to a thriving black market.
Most sellers get their supplies of cigarettes and chewing tobacco twice a week from a "dealer", who usually smuggles in the products across the border from India.
On a busy afternoon, a Bhutanese man walks into the shop and orders cigarettes in a hushed tone. She leans down to her handbag and pulls out a pack of 10 cigarettes. Bhutan, a small Himalayan nation often called the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is the only country in the world that completely bans the sale and production of tobacco and tobacco products.
Under the law, any individual found selling tobacco can face imprisonment for a period of three to five years. I have to pay rent for this place and if I stop selling cigarettes my profits will plummet," she says. The government emphasises improving people’s happiness while relying on four pillars of development - good governance, natural environment, sustainable growth and cultural values.
But the youngster confesses that she is only doing it for financial reasons. The Himalayan nation has a long history of tobacco control.
In 1729, it perhaps became the first country in the world to have any kind of tobacco regulation, when the supreme leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal passed a law against tobacco use.On a bus from the border town of Phuntsholing to the capital Thimphu, Tsering Zam - who requested his name not be used - is nervous. Tshering Tobgay, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, is vocal about his opposition to the original law as well as its amended version.She has purchased three packs of cigarettes without paying import duties. irst, the amendment, like the existing Act, continues to allow people to legally import tobacco.It was lauded for being the first country in the world to go entirely smoke-free.However, the implementation of the ban remained weak.One can now import 300 cigarettes, 400 bidis, 50 cigars and 250 grams of other tobacco products.However, one has to produce receipts for import duties if caught with these products or face hefty fines.The other crimes that get a similar three-year sentence Under public pressure, the parliament amended the act and passed the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act in January 2012.The amended Act has increased the permissible amounts of tobacco that can be imported for personal consumption.Especially for young children."Monk Karma (who goes by one name), explains that smoking can have bad karmic consequences."We believe that even if you touch a cigarette to your lips, it can be harmful for your karma.