The remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was the poster child of tobacco control for many years.
It appeared that Bhutan had drawn the obvious conclusion from decades of scientific research and had finally done the right thing.
In 2004, the kingdom banned the sale of all tobacco products. Tobacco control activists were delighted.
Jump forward to 2020, and the picture is not so rosy. In a joint report by the government and the World Health Organization office in Bhutan, “The Big Ban: Bhutan’s Journey Toward a Tobacco-Free Society,” Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, sets out the situation: “The black market, one that emerged after the ban, is the number one challenge that Bhutan is faced with when it comes to tobacco control. The Global Youth Survey 2013 reports an increase in the number of school children between ages 13 and 15 using tobacco products. It increased from 24 percent in 2006 to 30 percent in 2013.”
According to the WHO, Bhutan has high levels of ongoing tobacco use despite prohibition. The WHO representative to Bhutan, Rui Paulo de Jesus, provides a candid explanation: “So long as the demand within the country persists, it will continue to fuel the illicit market that has expanded since the ban of its sale in early 2000. Unfortunately, as studies indicate, Bhutanese youth are at the center of this growing illegal trade in tobacco and its products.”
Clive Bates – Tobacco Reporter – 2022-02-01.