Monk faces five years in jail for his tobacco habit

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The Independent Online

A Buddhist monk with a taste for nicotine could face five years in prison after becoming the first victim of a tough new anti-smoking law that has been introduced in Bhutan.

Reports suggest that the monk, who has not been identified, has been charged with consuming and smuggling contraband substances after he was found in possession of 72 packets of chewing tobacco.

The Himalayan kingdom has long promoted itself as the home of "gross natural happiness" and its rulers have deemed smoking harmful to both individuals and society, introducing a law in 2005 banning the sale of tobacco. Smoking in private is not illegal but the sale of cigarettes is banned and smokers can only legally import 200 cigarettes or 150 grams of other tobacco products a month.

A new law has granted the police powers to enter homes and threaten jail for shopkeepers who sell tobacco and smokers who fail to provide receipts for imported cigarettes.

"He [the monk] can be charged with smuggling of controlled substances," said an official from the Narcotic Drug and Law enforcement Unit of Bhutan.