But some question why alcohol is not banned

Sensitisation: Authorities were questioned about regulations related to tobacco products at a meeting between paan shop owners and the Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) and the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), yesterday.

More than 500 paan shop owners attended the meeting at the Youth Development Fund hall.

A paan shop owner questioned officials why sale of tobacco products is banned while consumption is allowed.

BNCA legal officer Tshering Om explained that it is the consumers’ fundamental right to consume what they like, despite their knowledge about its harmful effects to their own body. But that the sale of tobacco products is banned because it harms other people. “You have the right to ruin yourself but not others,” she said.

Tshering Om also said that it is important that smokers are aware of non-smoking areas and that tobacco products for self-consumption should be legally imported.

A 28-year-old paan shop owner, Dan Maya, said that the fine imposed to the person-in-charge of an area is not fair. “It is difficult to make people avoid smoking within our premises,” Dan Maya said. “Usually the smokers are youths and at times they pick on us for telling them not to smoke near the shop.”

A fine of Nu 1,000 per smoker is slapped to the person-in-charge for failing to supervise and carry out measures to ensure that no person smokes within their premises.

Tandin Wangmo, 47, has been running a paan shop for 15 years. She said that the workshop helped her understand the laws on tobacco.

Paan shop owners suggested that the sale of alcohol should also be banned because alcohol is the cause of all problems.

BNCA and RBP officials advised paan shop owners not to indulge in the illegal trade of tobacco products and other controlled substances.

BNCA officials educated the paan shop owners on the harmful effects of controlled substances, need for substance use prevention, Tobacco and Narcotics laws, and issues related to drug demand and supply reduction, among others.

BNCA’s deputy chief programme officer, Dorji Tshering, said that when shopkeepers illegally sell tobacco products, it encourages the use of the substances. “By not selling tobacco products, the shopkeeper will save many lives from getting ruined.”

Most of the time, the use of tobacco is the first step towards abusing controlled substances, Dorji Tshering added.

High profit margin was found to be the main reason for the illegal trade of tobacco products and controlled substances.

The workshop was held to curb the growing tobacco and drug abuse problem in the country especially among the youth.

The one-day sensitization workshop was organized by BNCA in collaboration with the RBP.

At the end of the day, 440 paan shop owners pledged their support for a drug-free society by not indulging in the illegal trade of tobacco products and other controlled substances.

By Dechen Tshomo