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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 12:30 GMT
Smoking is stubbed out in Bhutan
Thimphu valley, Bhutan
Tobacco was already banned in 18 of Bhutan's 20 districts
A smoking ban in public places is to be introduced on 1 March in the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

The ban forbids people from lighting up at government offices, hospitals, schools, parks and shopping centres, among other places.

It comes two months after a government ban on sale of all tobacco products in the country.

The predominantly Buddhist nation is thought to be the first country in the world to impose such a ban.

The moves are part of government efforts to make Bhutan a smoke-free nation.

It is a sensitive issue because it deals with personal rights
Sonam Phuntsho, Bhutanese official

A senior government official, Sonam Phuntsho, said various measures will be taken to enforce the public smoking ban.

"It is a sensitive issue because it deals with personal rights," he said.

Strict action

Many government offices have already taken the initiative to make their premises smoke free.

But a report in Bhutan's only newspaper, Kuensel, says "cigarettes and chewing tobacco are still available under the counter in many shops".

Kuensel says that government officials are imposing fines on those found selling tobacco.

Licenses of six shops have been cancelled and their owners fined for selling tobacco, says the newspaper.

Smokers like Tashi, a shop owner, protest that the ban is draconian.

"I cannot smoke in my shop now. This is not fair."

Correspondents say smoking was only popular with a small percentage of the Bhutanese population. Chewing tobacco was much more common.

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Country profile: Bhutan
14 Aug 04 |  Country profiles

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