Inspections have moved from Gelephu to Samdrupjongkhar 

Tobacco: It appears that the surprise inspections by the Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) is proving effective

Only three individuals were fined in Gelephu town, when the inspection team conducted its first surprise check on December 20. The team conducted an awareness campaign and sensitization programme of the newly amended Tobacco Act in the dzongkhag from December 20-24.

A total of eight were fined for smoking in public areas in those four days.

BNCA deputy chief programme officer, Dorji Tshering, said that the people were already aware of the surprise inspection. “Local officials with the team were surprised to see only few numbers of smokers caught,” he said.

BNCA officials and other authorities, in a highway check that began from December 20, found illegally possessed tobacco in 82 vehicles. Individuals were fined for not having receipts. A total of 359 vehicles were checked.

The highway check which ended on December 24, seized 87 pieces of cigarettes, 60 sticks of bidi and 70 packets of chewing tobacco.

Dorji Tshering said that almost half of the individuals caught in possession of the substances were Indian laborers.

The inspection collected a total of Nu 45,000 from the defaulters.

Dorji Tshering said that in order to make people aware of the tobacco rules and regulations, individuals entering the country from India had to declare their purchased tobacco products at the gate. All the tobacco products without a legal receipt were seized.

The inspections will get more strict. “Individuals even those who are smoking inside the smoking room will be asked to provide receipts for their purchase,” he said.

Section 13 of the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act of Bhutan 2014, states that a person importing tobacco or tobacco products for personal consumption shall pay duties and taxes as prescribed by Parliament.

Although the newly amended Tobacco Control Act seems to be coming into play, ambiguities in certain areas still linger. The Act doesn’t specify whether an individual can smoke in his/her private vehicle.

Dorji Tshering said that smoking is strictly prohibited in public transportations. He added that the driver is not allowed to smoke inside a private vehicle if it enters a public area. However, the Act doesn’t specify if smoking is legal in the vehicle if it is located on privately owned space.

The team is in Samdrupjongkhar and will begin inspections from today until the end of the year.

Younten Tshedup