Tobacco: Twenty-two people were fined for smoking in public areas in Thimphu when the Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) was on its second round of inspection on November 28.

Between 10.30am and 5.30pm, about 15 inspectors from BNCA, Royal Bhutan Police, Department of Trade, and Department of Revenue and Customs collected a total of Nu 41,000 from the fines.

A fine of Nu 500 was slapped on the spot on each person caught smoking in non-smoking areas. Most offenders were young males.

BNCA’s deputy chief programme officer, Dorji Tshering said the number of people smoking in public places is rising, which conveys to the residents, especially youth that smoking in public places is not wrong.

“Avoiding smoking in public places will help reduce exposure to second-hand smoke,” he said.

Dorji Tshering said the smoke that is given off by the burning tip of a cigarette is much more toxic than the smoke inhaled through the filter by the smoker.

Regular passive smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent, heart disease by at least 25 percent, asthma by 40 to 60 percent and stroke by 80 percent.

Children exposed to cigarette smoke are more at risk because of their smaller lungs and also because their bodies are still developing.

“We want to reinforce the law and discourage people from smoking in public places through inspection,” Dorji Tshering said.

A proprietor of a snooker room and two shopkeepers were also fined Nu 10,000 each for failing to designate an area for their smoking customers and for failing to supervise and carry out measures to ensure that no person smokes in places, other than the designated area.

According to the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act of Bhutan 2014, the person-in-charge of a hotel, guesthouse, restaurants, among others, shall arrange smoking rooms as appropriate. Notices indicating smoking is prohibited in all other areas should also be displayed.

The Act states that the person-in-charge who finds a person smoking in places other than the designated area shall request the offender to refrain from smoking.

If the person continues to smoke, the person-in-charge shall demand the offender to leave the place or transport, otherwise report to an authorized officer or law enforcement personnel.

To help reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, Bhutan has declared several areas as non-smoking places. It is against the law to smoke in enclosed and substantially enclosed public places.

Public gatherings or spaces, institutions, public transportation, commercial and recreation centres are non-smoking areas.

Dorji Tshering said the inspection is a part of drug free campaign initiative, which was launched by Her Majesty Gyalyum Tshering Pem Wangchuck in July.

“Here on, we will carry out similar inspection at least twice a month,” he said. The next inspection will be in organisations and institutions.”

The first inspection was carried out in June where 17 people were fined.

Dechen Tshomo