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Shaving off Tobacco Act

Those days I used to simply pull them out with my bare hands and for the same reason I usually had to maintain my fingernails long. But I think it is the best and inexpensive affair to pull out and pull out all. And more importantly, it does better work and the effect is for anyone to see. Our forefathers and their forefathers weren’t that stupid you see. In absence of fancy modern implements, they made it do with their hands. For the last 26 years I thought I was okay without it too and I don’t know how I landed up being its victim. And I think the crazy affair began with a warning that it is harmful and destructive to our eyes, the effect of pulling. But it has been almost a few years that my alternate morning depended on it. Some of my friends claim to do it almost every day.

The more I shave it, the more my moustache grows.  Now you see that gives me extra work added to my normal everyday duties. It means extra expense towards buying new shavers and all those fancy modern creams that come in various shapes and sizes. But you see, I feel I looked alright back then without a trace of a shaver going around my face. Now the impact of that foreign agent is for anyone to see on my face; they can trace the work of sharp razor blades easily. More recently, a doctor confirmed there is hardly any medically proven effect on the eye by the act of pulling out our moustaches or beards.

When we were young, our parents used to warn us that if iron pieces such as blades or knives touch our skin, more hair would grow. And that’s why people refrained from shaving. But I would like to believe that they had no option but to believe as they had no luxurious items back then. Experience is the best teacher they say. Believe it or not, my experience tells me that the metal blade increases the speed at which my moustache and beard grow. Experts and specialists tell us this is not so. It is difficult to explain, but this is so. So, the only choice I have for my son is to encourage him using other means of removal but not shaving.

And today Bhutan is going through a similar situation with its Tobacco Control Act. As of today we hear about 19 people are already caught with ‘smuggling’ tobacco products since its implementation in January 2011. (That’s on an average 4.75 catch per month.) And soon many more would follow. This means the concept of killing a goat to frighten others, which the Act tries to do, is hardly working. The more we catch our police would have more people to be caught – so much like shaving - so much energy and attention required. More and more people are going to be put behind the bars and people are still smoking and smoking hard. This hide and seek game is so much like the ongoing battle between the Thimphu City Corporation officials and the hawkers doing their brisk businesses on the footpaths. 

We have to put people in the jails owing to the nature of the Act and the minimum sentence is three years. Our men in uniform should check everyone at everyone point and keep strong vigilance if the Act has to work and people have to be caught. This slows down the congested highway traffic. And when people are jailed, there are costs involved. Forget about the individual’s productive portion of life being wasted. How many people are we talking about? How many more police personnel are we recruiting?

I read somewhere that our local leaders think the Act needs no amendment. There is confusion here – tobacco and the act. I think it would be so much better if we could put a total ban on tobacco products, going by the harm it brings to our people (this is what our local leaders think the Act is all about). But we could not do that. Now we have the Act, which says we can smoke if we pay taxes. This means we are back to square one. At the most we have made smoking more expensive and almost rich people’s affair. Tobacco is essentially bad for health. All smokers know that.

No one is against any authority trying to discourage people from using tobacco products. But everyone is saying is that the way we are criminalizing people is improper and that the punishment is too harsh. The nature of punishment should befit the sort of the crime committed. 

Let’s be clear about this – the Act needs to be amended in the larger interest of the people, but the change, if any, should benefit all. And if people, especially those who smoke, want the government to amend the Act for the mere fact that it adversely affects their smoking habit then they should know it is wrong and selfish to say the least.

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