Thursday, 2 February 2023

Prohibition failing everywhere

After the fall of the Islamic State, Bhutan was left as the only country in the world where tobacco sales were banned. Prohibition did not go well (who could have predicted that?)

The Bhutanese government legalised tobacco in July 2021 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was not because the government recognised the potential of smoking to reduce infections, but because so many tobacco smugglers were coming over the border carrying the virus.

The Tobacco Control blog has finally accepted that Bhutan has no plan to bring prohibition back. This makes it sad.

Bhutan reverses sales ban on tobacco

In 2010, Bhutan was lauded globally for being the first country to ban tobacco sales and smoking in public places. The ban lasted for over a decade until the circumstances posed by the COVID-19 pandemic compelled policy makers to change course, legalising the sale of tobacco within the country.

The Bhutanese legislation essentially banned everything except bringing a bit of tobacco in from abroad for personal consumption.

Building on the nationwide sales ban in 2004, the Tobacco Control Act, 2010 imposed a comprehensive ban on all tobacco products in Bhutan. The law prohibited cultivation, manufacture, supply and sale of tobacco products; imposed bans on advertisements, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products along with restrictions in films; declared smoke-free public places or zones; and also prescribed a labelling requirement for display of country of origin and health warnings on tobacco products. Tobacco consumption, however, was not banned. Import of tobacco products for personal consumption was permitted, but taxed. The law also levied a sales tax of 100% for imported tobacco products from India and an additional custom duty of 100% for tobacco products from other countries. The Tobacco Control Regulations, 2013 and the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act, 2014 imposed limitations on the quantities that could be purchased for personal consumption and required declarations of importer’s identity. The law also prohibited the illegal sale of tobacco and the use tobacco products in public places, punishable under the Penal Code Act of Bhutan, 2004

Despite the existence of a robust legal and regulatory framework for tobacco control, smuggling and a black market for tobacco was rampant in Bhutan.

Incredible use of the word 'despite' there. Here in the real world, we would say 'because of'.

Tobacco use in Bhutan has not decreased significantly, with a tobacco use prevalence of 24.8% and 23.9% as per the STEPS 2014 and 2019 respectively.
'Not decreased significantly' is one way of putting it. Another way of putting it would be 'increased exponentially'. In 2003, Bhutan had a smoking rate of just one per cent!
So that's tobacco prohibition gone for now. Over to you, New Zealand!
These politicians banned alcohol – now poisonous hooch is killing thousands

The world’s largest prohibition experiment since the 1920s pushed liquor production underground. The consequences have been disastrous.

 You don't say.

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