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Buddhist monk faces five years for breaking smoking law

The monk is the first person to be charged under Bhutan’s anti-smoking legislation.

Image: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

A BUDDHIST MONK HAS BECOME the first person to fall foul of Bhutan’s strict anti-smoking regulations.

In 2005, Bhutan went a step further than Ireland in its anti-smoking efforts, by completely banning the sale of tobacco and smoking in public.

Authorities then began deploying sniffer dogs along Bhutan’s border with India in a vain attempt to prevent cross-border cigarette smuggling.

In a further effort to clampdown on illegal smoking, a new law came into force this month allowing police to enter homes and request customs receipts for tobacco and cigarettes.

Smoking in private is not illegal in the Himalayan state, but smokers who cannot prove they imported their cigarettes and shopkeepers caught selling tobacco can face up to five years in prison.

The law has not been popular. The New York Times reported a fortnight ago that the opposition party leader Tshering Tobgay said he wished an MP would be the first person convicted under the law.

However, Reuters reports that a monk has been charged with consuming and smuggling tobacco after he was found carrying 72 packets of chewing tobacco. Under the law, smokers are restricted to importing 200 cigarettes or 150grams of tobacco per month, and they must retain the customs receipt.

The 24-year-old man claimed he was not aware of the new law and was not carrying a customs receipt for the tobacco.

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