Kingdom of Bhutan - assembly debating penalties for people that violate tobacco control bill..

Bhutan Coat-of-Arms, click to enlarge:
December 3, 2009 - The tiny, Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan became the world's first nonsmoking nation. Since December 17, 2004 it has been illegal to smoke in public or sell tobacco. Violators are fined the equivalent of $232—more than two months' salary in Bhutan. (Bhutan forbids all tobacco sales, BBC News, 12/17/2004)

The National Assembly is deliberating on penalties for people, who violate the tobacco control bill, after re-inserting the clause, which bans sale of tobacco products that was removed by the National Council in the summer session.
(The ne wdemocratic system comprises an upper and lower house, the latter based on political party affiliations. Elections for the upper house (National Council) were held on December 31, 2007, while elections for the lower house, the 47-seat National Assembly, were held on March 24, 2008.)

Discussing the bill for the third time in the Assembly, the house put back clause C under section 11 that bans “sale of tobacco and tobacco products”. With the clause, any person selling tobacco products is committing an offence, according to the bill.

A person smoking in public spaces and the person-in-charge of the public space will be punished twice with monetary fines and then be penalised, in accordance with the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, on a third offence, according to the bill. For instance, if a person smokes in a restaurant, the restaurant owner will also be penalised. A public place is defined as any space where people gather.

Anybody, who cultivates, harvests, manufactures, supplies or distributes tobacco and tobacco products in the country, will be penalised according to the penal code. Tobacco smugglers would charged for smuggling.

Members debated, at length, on the severity of the penalties, with some even suggesting a mandatory imprisonment for six months. While some said that the title of the bill was “control,” banning sale of tobacco would be contravening legislation. Others suggested using “ban” on the title. “Imposing monetary fines on a violator, before charging him/her according to the Penal Code won’t work,” said an MP from Trashigang. “Many smokers won’t mind paying the fine. They should be put under police custody immediately,” she said.

With almost all the members presenting their case, the Assembly could not come to a decision yesterday. The discussion will continue today.

Reference: Tobacco bill’s third discussion Sale clause reinserted as parliament decides to get tough by Ugyen Penjore, Kuensel Newspaper, 12/3/2009.