Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Tobacco Debate

For those of you who do not know, smoking without a tax receipt in Bhutan is illegal and can get you jailed for three years three months. Crime- fourth degree felony.

Finally read the ACT book/text book that we have been debating about. The preamble which justifies the need for the ACT to have been enacted banks on a social, heath and environmental concern that affects our GNH philosophy or something similar on these lines.

Heath wise:
Does domestic violence occur because someone went out for a smoke or drank a bottle of LEGAL whisky? Does the mortality statistics show that the death rate is more due to tobacco consumption or because of alcohol? Or the sooth from kerosene equivalent of smoking 40 cigarettes a day? Accidents due to bad roads? Pharmaceutical drugs? Psychological cases due to broken marriages, which again uncle alcohol is usually present and so on. An interesting thought I came upon today when conversing with someone; what if our parliament constituted of 50% women? We would probably ban or restrict the sale of alcohol and not tobacco.

As a social scientist, I do agree with the ban of smoking in public spaces which are used by children and adults alike, in pubs and clubs and other such spaces and people to be id'ed above 18 and so on, like some western countries do and which is strongly enforced without partiality to any class or strata of the society. But for cops to walk into someone's office, that too a media office? I thought Journalists were the public watchdogs, since when did Journalists get blue dogs around to watch us; sniffing around and waiting for the "crime" to happen? There is respect every individual deserves by virtue of being human, it is called human dignity. When you encroach into someone's private space whether it be raiding an office or a house or a shop or where ever, it sends out the message that their behavior is monitored and if it isn't monitored then there is something inappropriate that could happen. So what are we? Social beings that do not know how to conduct ourselves in social settings? I thought we were done with the colonial age! Socially, there are much more problems this ACT and BAN is creating and will create and sadly the repercussions could be very serious and disastrous. We really have to be mindful of what we are doing and how strategic it is in the long term, most importantly as a DEMOCRATIC nation. Democracy is based on public consensus right? Yes our MPs did voice our concerns but perhaps it is not reflective of the larger audience who want this ACT to be amended.

As a conservationist I know for a fact we are one of the few countries in the world that have negative carbon sequestration, which simply means you need not even worry about air pollution, that too from cigarettes! Please shut the mines and the other heavily polluting non-carbon conscious industries which do much more harm at a greater scale. Let us plant trees instead, or do something that really reflects our urban environmental consciousness and let this “environment” word being dragged and its free flowing usage be done much more mindfully.
Furthermore the Act is named Tobacco CONTROL act; how does one control when there is a BAN and there is no sale? Isn’t the ACT itself very paradoxical?

We should use the budget allocated for the enactment of this ACT and the cost of its implementation including the prison charges of dal roti to build bridges, schools, hospitals, roads, and to lift the 23% who still live below the poverty line, that to me is a clever and smart move!

This text book, is vague, repetitive (we could have saved some paper really, time, energy and salaries of our dear MPs) and the ACT to me appeared to be just one page which is the penalty page and oh my, that makes me shudder, we all know why!

* The usage of the word blue dog is purely metaphorical and should not be mistaken otherwise.

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