Newsbrief: Bhutan Banning Tobacco 12/5/03

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excerpted from the newsletter of the International Antiprohibitionist League, http://www.antiprohibitionist.org

Last week, several publications including The Christian Science Monitor ran a story on Bhutan, informing that the little Asian Kingdom has decided to become the first smoke-free nation in the history of humanity. According to the CSM in Bhutan, "19 of 20 districts have already banned the leaf, often on religious grounds, as Buddhists consider smoking to be a sin. Health officials are now laying the groundwork for Thimphu to follow suit next year. If they succeed, it will be illegal to sell tobacco products, and Bhutanese smokers will be fined if caught in public." Bhutan's Secretary of the Ministry of Health is reported as saying that "It's not just about banning tobacco; we have to provide support services. If people want to give [it] up, we will help them."

Bhutan is trying to open up to democratic rules and, the CSM reports, some ask themselves if this "should mean a more laissez-faire attitude to private vices like smoking" while others ask "if alcohol would be a better target, given the dangers of drunk driving on the nation's treacherous mountain roads." Apparently, much of the smoking debate is being conducted in the national newspaper, the Kuensel (http://www.kuensel.com.bt), and its online forum.

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