Vice Squad
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Bhutan's Tobacco Ban

Bhutan banned sales of tobacco about two and a half years ago, following up with a rather comprehensive public smoking ban. (Vice Squad, prescient as ever, noted the forthcoming ban a full year in advance, on December 9, 2003.) How have things worked out in the tobacco-free paradise? Well, perhaps not as swimmingly as one might have hoped -- Bhutan is landlocked, incidentally -- according to this article from India eNews. Detailed regulations implementing the ban have not yet been adopted, and tourists, diplomats, and NGO workers are excluded from the prohibition (their health being less important, presumably). The black market thrives -- who would have thought of that? But I will not go so far as to blame a 7,000 acre forest fire on the public smoking ban (as the linked article seems to do); teenagers were the culprits, and they are likely to smoke clandestinely even when public smoking by adults is legal.

The Bhutanese are not averse to all vice. According to one of the kingdom's official web pages, chang (a beer), arra (a distilled spirit), and betel nuts are all common, along with salted butter tea.

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