In 2010, the DPT government introduced the most controversial Tobacco Control Act which banned the sale and consumption of tobacco products in the country. The intention was good because it was initiated to promote public health but the greatest mistake was that no enough public education was provided about the act before it was brought to force. As a result, so many innocent individuals were arrested and put behind bars without bail for possessing just a few packets of tobacco products for personal consumption. This raised a question amongst people if consuming tobacco was really a crime punishable by law and that too without bail. Everybody viewed it to be too harsh but it was too late and there wasn’t anything that could be done to convince the government to undo its decision.
If consuming tobacco is a crime, I should say that consuming alcohol should be a more serious crime because alcohol does more harm than tobacco. I am just wondering why the government has only focused on banning tobacco while continuing to issue new bar licenses in the country. In fact, it’s the consumption of alcohol that has been triggering people to commit more crimes than tobacco. The only bad thing about tobacco is that it is injurious to health and that in Buddhism, it’s considered sinful to smoke. Other than that, it does not intoxicate people to commit crimes.
On the other hand, alcohol can be viewed as the destroyer of social and economic harmony. From the social perspective, it is the leading cause for domestic violence and family breakups, sexual assaults/rapes, gang violence, murder, road accidents and unnecessary disputes. From the economic perspective, it is the waste of hard-earned income. Many people spend a significant chunk of their hard-earned savings on alcohol leaving their family in miserable conditions. As a result, the children do not get a safe environment for healthy physical and psychological development. From the health perspective, it’s as injurious as tobacco, if not more. The statistical data from JDW National Referral Hospital shows that alcohol has been the leading cause of death every year. Even from the Buddhist’s point of view, consuming alcohol is considered a sin because it is the root cause of social disharmony and sufferings.
So looking at it from the above angles, I strongly feel that there should be Alcohol Control Act in place of Tobacco Control Act because we have all good reasons to consider the consumption of alcohol a more serious offence compared to consuming tobacco, if we are to really measure it in terms of harm and damage it causes in the society. But the irony is that we have so many bars in the country, all easily accessible. We don’t even have a regulation in place that prohibits the sale of liquor to children below the legal age. In the west, one should be at least 18-years-old to buy liquor from any bar but in Bhutan, anybody can go to the bar and get the liquor regardless of their age. I am just wondering when will the government realize this sad reality and take necessary steps to safeguard our society against this more dangerous evil. However, this does not mean that I am a teetotaler. I am an occasional drinker but when I take it, I take it responsibly. This does not cause any major harm to my health as well as to my family and social network. But there are many people who cross the limits and that’s exactly when it starts creating numerous problems.