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By profession, I am a Customs officer working in Paro International airport. And today I write this epistle to you NOT as a civil servant, but as a concern citizen form your constituency; - Bumthang, Ura, Shingkhar.
Of the many agencies involved in successful implementation of the recent Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010, my department has always been in the forefront. Successful implementation of the act to some extent depended on the initiatives and resoluteness of our team as well. Today we are in the 6th month of its implementation and strangely the act has come under a sharp criticism not only from our own citizens but also from the foreigners too.
However, I am not here to give justification on their behalf. Rather I am here to share my own opinion with you as suggested by our Excellency Prime Minister. With this I am also hopeful that interaction like this will have positive impact and will go a long way in the history of consultative law making in our peaceful country.
Personally speaking, I am a non smoker. Therefore I have a devilish allergy to the smokes especially of the tobacco. It is no doubt that so many people are falling victim to this evil addiction and that there was a genuine need for the state to curb it. It was indeed a very noble initiative for our Parliament to have come with such a timely act. I am a pro Tobacco control act and as a citizen, sincerely salute our Parliament for the concern.
I am a firm believer in Buddhism too. But my endeavor to regard tobacco as against it has yielded no results yet. Considering the pains and sufferings it brought to those innocent addicts, I still consider it as an ill product that deserves to be kept at bay forever. It’s a genuine fight and that we need to fight it collectively and responsibly.
A thing of fight against tobacco has become a worldwide phenomenon and that we are not alone fighting this war. Many countries in the world are today fighting the same war. This is nothing unprecedented and that it requires dedication, time and patience. Worldwide experience shows that Countries who came out victorious are the ones who fought the war with extra care and diligence.
But, here we are, stuck somewhere in the middle of the war. With the coming of noble intended act, rampant criminalization of its citizens has thus ensued. We seem to have gotten our war strategy wrong, because the otherwise godly intended act has been marred by atrocious penalties it contained.
If I am not wrong, our Dzongkhag was the first Dzongkhag to have banned the sale and distribution of any tobacco products. Befitting to numerous sacred relics, places and monasteries in the locality, the decision was supported by the majority of people. But sadly the failure to uphold the decision was not only poor but was lamentingly disastrous. The black market thrived.
Taking these facts into consideration, you should have been the first person to have voiced about the consequences besides wider varieties of alternatives like education, counseling, awareness and other tobacco cessation programmes. Little more consultation (if done) with people would have also helped you contribute substance to the act when it was being debated in the house.
The recent ‘Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010’ failed to live up to the expectations of common citizens. Most think its "draconian" and illogical. No act/law in the History has ever imprisoned its citizens like it did and today citizens are calling for the immediate amendment. Amendment, I think is being called for because we realize something is not really right. This is not only a failure by the law makers but failure of all the citizens too. As a Nation we are equally responsible!
In saying, let the bygone be bygone, let us not forget that if a Nation building is a journey then let us take each single step together with extra care and diligence. With this let us also learn to fall back when we know the way ahead is rough and slippery.
So, I am urging you as my representative to revisit the act once again and do the necessary amendments (if possible) within the earliest possible date. I am saying this because other then the detention centers and prisons; more schools, more hospitals, clean water, continuous power and good roads are something we pressingly need at the moment. I believe our Government is working on it, day and night and more still needs to be done.
Bumthang, Ura, Shingkhar