Three smokers fined every hour for violating Tobacco Act

A total of 37 people were penalized yesterday during a BNCA inspection in the city 

Tobacco: With a collection of more than Nu 8,000 an hour, the Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency’s (BNCA) inspection teams collected a total of Nu 84,500 in 10 hours as fines during its third round of inspection yesterday in Thimphu.

About 29 people were fined for smoking in non-smoking areas while seven person-in-charges were fined Nu 10,000 each for failing to supervise and carry out measures to ensure that no person smoked within their premises.

Every hour, three persons were penalized for smoking in public places.

The inspection began with penalizing a taxi driver who was found smoking in the taxi parking at Lungtenzampa. The driver was imposed a fine of Nu 500 on the spot.

BNCA’s deputy chief programme officer, Dorji Tshering, said had the driver been found smoking inside his taxi, he would have been liable for a fine of Nu 10,000.

According to Tobacco Control Amendment Act of Bhutan 2014, no person shall smoke outside the designated smoking areas in public places including public transportation.

Drivers of all forms of motor vehicles and aircrafts for passenger transport are categorized as person-in-charge.

The inspection was carried out in the main city area, Motithang, Changangkha, Dechencholing, Taba and Olakha.

A total fine of Nu 43,000 was collected from automobile workshops alone in Olakha. During the inspection, it was found that 90 percent of automobile workshops don’t have notices displaying that smoking is prohibited.

The officials warned the workshop owners that failing to display such notices will result in a penalty of Nu 10,000 because all commercial and recreation centers and institutions, among others are required by law to display the notices.

A workshop owner, Kinga, said he doesn’t let his workers smoke in the workshop. However, it is difficult to refrain customers from smoking in workshops. Imposing fines to people smoking in public will restrict them from smoking in public places including automobile workshops, he added.

“The risk of fire is high in workshops because we are surrounded with flammable substances,” Kinga said.

Dorji Tshering said BNCA along with the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) and other stakeholders will continue with their surprise inspections to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco and to ensure that people comply with the Tobacco Control Amendment Act of Bhutan, 2014.

Tobacco law does not bar people from smoking and chewing tobacco as long as the tobacco products are legally imported and they do not consume in public places, Dorji Tshering said.

“The objective of the inspection is not to impose fine but to make people aware that smoking in public places is a violation of law,” he said.

A total of Nu 134,000 has been collected as fines from the three inspections this year in the capital.

Dechen Tshomo

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