Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

The local leaders and the rabdey dratshang of Lhuentse have written to the dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce to discontinue distribution of tobacco products in the dzongkhag, last week. 

The proposal cited religious, cultural, and health reasons discontinue tobacco product distribution. 

 “We’re not interfering in government policy but our proposal is if there is possibility to stop,” the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) Thrizin and the Jarey gup, Kinzang Minjur, said.

He said unlike the border towns and dzongkhags, the risk of bringing in the virus by the tobacco users was slim. So the distribution was deemed not necessary. 

 “Moreover, there are hardly around 40 users from among around 1000 people in my gewog. They are again not addicts,” he said. 

 “I am not blaming the government. We are only concerned about the impact of distributing cheap tobacco to the doorstep when the users have almost adapted to the situation,” he said. 

According to the gup, some users have quit while others have cut down consumption drastically owing to the scarcity. 

The thrizin said that the distribution would encourage even non-abusers particularly the youth to use the products if they were readily available. 

Lhuentse Lam Neten, Ngawang Sithub, said while the government policy is respected Lhuentse should be spared given the sanctity of the place. 

 “It’s also against both religion and health. We thought if we could jointly stop the distribution for the greater common good,” he said.  

Gups also questioned the distribution model and the price. Some accused the identified shopkeepers of charging higher rates. 

 “We’re not even aware that the products have reached the dzongkhag or who sell them at what rate?” Maenbi gup, Tshelthrimla said.

Gups said there were also issues of some buying using citizenship identity card of non-consumers and selling them to others at higher prices in the villages. 

 “This is discouraging those who already decided to quit,” a gup said.  

A shopkeeper each from Phaling town and Autsho town has been identified to sell the products. Initially, tobacco products were distributed to consumers in the gewogs.

Lhuentse thromde thuemi, Sonam Wangdi, said, “I didn’t follow up since I was not consulted although I heard that some buy a larger quantity using others’ ID card number.” 

 “We don’t want it to promote it.” 

Lhuentse dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce is yet to discuss the issue. 

Lhuentse dzongdag, Jambay Wangchuk said the letters have been received and the task force members would be able to discuss only after the disbursement of the second consignment for which the requisition had been already processed and sent to Bhutan Duty-Free Limited in line with the government directive.