Bhutan introduces tobacco prohibition

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The Independent Online

New Yorkers nostalgic for the days of smoky bars and eateries where they could puff in peace should thank their lucky stars they don't live in Bhutan.

New Yorkers nostalgic for the days of smoky bars and eateries where they could puff in peace should thank their lucky stars they don't live in Bhutan.

The remote Himalayan kingdom will, as of tomorrow, take a giant step towards its aim of becoming a smoke-free zone. In an attempt to make the country a healthier place to live, the government will ban shops, hotels, restaurants and bars from selling tobacco in any form and will fine any individual caught violating the law $210 (£114).

Proprietors have until 17 December to dispose of all stocks and, if caught selling prohibited products, they will lose their business licences. "We want no pollution and good health for our citizens," a Bhutanese minister, Jigme Thinley, said.

Bhutan is thought to be the first country to impose a full tobacco ban. Eighteen of its 20 districts are already enforcing the law, and, come tomorrow, the area around the capital Thimphu and the eastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar will no longer be excepted.

Any Bhutanese citizen bringing tobacco products into the country for his or her own use will be charged a 100 per cent tax.

And Karma Tshering of Bhutanese customs told the BBC: "If any foreigner is caught selling tobacco products to Bhutanese nationals, he will be charged with smuggling. Tobacco will be treated as contraband. The ban will not apply to foreign diplomats or NGO staff.

Prices of Indian cigarettes have rocketed since news of the impending ban broke days ago. In Thimphu, the cost has doubled and community leaders are celebrating the prohibition's success.

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