Tobacco Act of Bhutan – Heartless and Cruel

Smoking in Bhutan

Is Tobacco Act of Bhutan (even the amended one) draconian and heartless, especially to babies and small children?

Judges say their hands are tied by the lawmakers without flexibility when it comes to Tobacco cases, where every Tobacco case, big or small, is designed to be an open and shut case with minimum sentencing of fourth degree “felony,” i.e. mandatory 3 years imprisonment. “Felony!” – that is in the same category as murder, rape, etc., the most heinous crimes.

Here are some sample cases of live-destroying impacts of Tobacco Act on everyday common citizens (true stories):

  1. A breast-feeding poor mother in Thimphu has been sentenced to 3 years mandatory imprisonment. Several times every day her baby is brought at the prison gate to breastfeed for 15 minutes. For the next 3 years, this less fortunate baby will see prison gate as synonymous to mother. A heartbreaking but true story – Tobacco Act is destroying two lives in one go.
  2. A breast-feeding poor mother in Dagana has been sentenced to 3 years mandatory imprisonment. Her baby is not even reaching the prison gate every day, as there’s no reliable or able person to bring the baby to the Tobacco gate every day. We have no clue how this future citizen of Bhutan will ever grow up. Another heartbreaking but true story – Tobacco Act is destroying two lives in one go.
  3. A victim of domestic violence and divorcee single mother with two small school going children, who also has to look after her 80 years old her ailing mother, has just been sentenced to 3 years mandatory imprisonment by the Thimphu District Court (it seems Thimphu district court judge tried his best to save her on humanitarian ground but the draconian Tobacco Act left no room of flexibility below the fourth degree “felony” sentencing).

This case is currently in the High Court on appeal ground and the VERDICT IS YET TO BE OUT. Hanging in this verdict is the fate of this poor woman, her two small school going children, and her ailing old mother. Will Tobacco Act destroy 4 lives in one go? Or will the verdict be different?

God save Bhutan!

It is simply heartbreaking. I cannot sleep – an image of a mother having to breastfeed her baby at the prison gate haunts me again and again and again.

What about you?



By Nima Tshering (


This story from Sintoo

Sintoo is the search bot used by Bhutanomics. Sintoo prowls the www, collecting stories of interest to Bhutan, to build a rich content repository for Bhutan analytics.


  1. I heard the Prime Ministers Niece Sonam Deki (daughter of Dasho Bap Kesang, Kisa Hotel) was caught with cigarettes at the airport and was called back to the counter and forced to pay taxes. So in short the relatives of the Prime Minister are protected and common people are not. Cant the same be done for other people thats force them to pay taxes even after being caught?

  2. Citizensconcern says:

    what the hell do they do in the parliament. I was attending the session when i was in institute and one MP stood and said ‘people in my constituency may think i am not standing in the parliament and therefore i am standing to say something’, however tshogpoen stop him to say further. Many stay yearning and mind filled with boredom and when final decision is to be made, they raise the hand in sleepy mode and laws are passed on. They need to think when such decision were been. This is my personal opinion and in any means it is not intended to defame any one.

  3. I think in Bhutan only people who live below poverty line, and who are unemployed, a dire job hunter is the only people who smoke. Those elites and rich do not smoke cigarette, or chew Baba, they need to save money to buy cigar, and that boils my human cigar….

  4. Tobacco act is only meant for the low level or economically disadvantaged people. In reality all high ranking or rich people do smoke but not biri or chew baba instead cigarettes made elsewhere and they dont have to worry about their stocks. then where does it come from. I see that laws in Bhutan are two folded – both from lawmakers and implementer aspect.

  5. I think it is sad that a breast feeding mother is indiscriminately imprisoned. But I am even sadder that a breast feeding mother smokes or chews tobacco as it is bound to have harmful effects on her baby as well.

  6. phanindra says:

    The intention of the tobacco act is not to ban the use of tobacco in the country because the sellers are selling and users are using without any effect of the law. However in the process innocent people and petty business men and women are becoming the victim of the draconian law. The punishment is not proportional to the offence and also not in line with other laws. It is very inhuman to know that children are suffering and they are being deprived of the parental care in a GNH country. I also heard that one mother is imprisoned with the baby. Is it the fault of the law or the implementers? Isn’t there any organization to rescue in such instances as they are not criminals anyway? Is the prison term is the only solution to punish people which is actually a burden to the government and expenditure to maintain them. If the politicians still think that their law is perfect which is not for others can’t our highest judiciary body nullify it which I suppose that they have powers to do that.

    I will not be surprised if an alcohol law comes with a death penalty as the ill effect of alcohol is manifold severe than tobacco.

  7. It seems intention of the law was good but it was crafted in ignorance of the properties and effects of tobacco. Tobacco has many good things in comparison to the bad/intoxicating effects of alcohol that numbs the sanity of consumers for quite some time. I treated the first snake bite with my own piss and baba covering the fang marks. It came out after curing the wound although the pain prolonged for sometime longer, growing milder every passing days. If I am bitten again (that I don’t deserve), I do not have this easy alternative due to the ban. I have no other alternative to going to hospital and waiting for the services of tired medicos virtually on silent strike nowadays with several complains of management lapses discouraging many.

    The cases of criminalizing the milder members (women and children) in the society and nation as indicated above cannot beg sympathy of public to the rules. It is failure of the rule to protect and build up society instead. This particular rule victimizing the weaker members of the society speaks much as a case of villainy of its crafters. It is better to educate the public about bad effects of tobacco and its various products if any with scientific evidences than discouraging with the threat of draconian codes making cases of contradiction in democratic society.

    Hope the next party will seek to nullify it, putting another reasonable code for observance in its place that can build the society discouraging the evil. Let the proven liars that are equivalent to adulterers and murderers be put behind bars to encourage the practice of truth in the society. It will increase the righteousness of a nation.

  8. you think it’s not cruel to choke people ? tell me