June 2, 2010 - Yesterday, as expected, the joint sitting of the Parliament passed the Tobacco Control Bill. Support for the Bill was almost unanimous. 61 of the 65 MPs (members of parliament) present and voting endorsed the Bill, whereas only 4 of them rejected it.
I was in the minority. Tobacco control is a good idea. But the Bill that we just passed is not.
The main principle in the Bill does not make sense: that people are permitted to consume tobacco, but that the sale of tobacco products is illegal. And that the sale of tobacco is illegal, but that tobacco consumers are permitted to import tobacco products.
The penalties in the Bill are draconian (severe, oppressive or strict): selling tobacco will get you a misdemeanor (one to three years in jail); and smuggling will land you a felony of the fourth degree (three to five years of mandatory jail sentence). But that will not deter the black market. So either our jails will crowd. Or the law will be ignored. Obviously neither is good for us.
Tobacco control is a good idea. But the Bill that we just passed is not.
I hope I am wrong. I hope that the wisdom of my colleagues, the majority, will prevail. And that we will be able to control, reduce and eventually eradicate tobacco consumption.
Reference: Parliament passes Tobacco Control Bill, Posted by Tshering Tobgay in Legislature on June 2, 2010, Tshering Tobgay blog, 6/2/2010.
Related news brief:
Bhutan - tobacco control bill endorsed..;
Kingdom of Bhutan - assembly debating penalties for people that violate tobacco control bill..