If you are living in Bhutan and that your home has smuggled tobacco, it is time that you got to be cautious: cops can raid your home.
In a bid to becoming the world’s first smoke-free nation, Bhutan police are training a special tobacco sniffer dog to help them track down smuggled tobacco from the homes of smokers.
Bhutan officially declared the ban on the sale of tobacco in 2005, but to no avail. It is believed that the ban visibly failed to generate an impact since the smokers continue to smuggle tobacco from neighboring India.
A legislation has been recently passed that grants police powers to enter homes and in the case they find shopkeepers selling tobacco the latter will have to serve jail term up to five years. This rule also applies to those smokers who fail to provide customs receipts for imported cigarettes.
Smoking in private is not illegal in the Himalayan kingdom, but as the sale of cigarettes is banned, smokers are restricted to 200 cigarettes or 150 grams of other tobacco products a month that can be legally imported. And they must provide a customs receipt when challenged by police.
The Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency has started raids, with officials allowed to enter homes if someone is seen smoking or if officials have reason to believe there is illegal tobacco there.
There has been widespread grumbling about the new rule.
“When it comes to the penalties in the tobacco control act, it is, in every sense of the word, draconian,” the country’s largest selling newspaper, Kuensel, said in an editorial.
The Tobacco Act was passed in a joint sitting of parliament, with opposition from only four of the 65 voting members.
“It’s a new year. And I have a new year’s wish: that the first person to be caught and jailed under the Tobacco Control Act is a member of parliament,” opposition leader Tshering Tobgay wrote on his popular blog.
Meanwhile, prime minister said the law cannot be called draconian and it was passed in the “collective wisdom” of the members of parliament.
“It is cancerous, both in the literal and the metaphoric sense, cancerous to society and to individual and in many ways it is no different from psychotropic drugs, for which the penalty in certain countries is death,” Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley said.