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Bhutan: a bellyful for the police
  1. David Simpson
  1. d.simpson{at}

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    For places to conceal contraband cigarettes, the coffin found to contain 3000 packs in Poland seemed imaginative, if somewhat macabre (Tobacco Control 2004;13:10). But in Bhutan, where the sale of tobacco, as well as its public use, was banned in December 2004, a booming market of smuggled cigarettes seems to have led to even more bizarre hiding places for illegal supplies.

    Hard pressed customs officials in Bhutan say smuggling is especially difficult to control in their country, not just because it is mountainous and sparsely populated, but also because people from all walks of life are involved. Many ordinary people are lured into taking the risk by irresistible rates of profit, not only from importing, but also from moving cigarettes internally: a recent report cited a sixfold mark-up on cigarettes smuggled from the capital to a region only one day’s drive away. But matching the wide range of smugglers is the variety of their concealment; illegal tobacco supplies have been found in everything from vegetable deliveries and general pick-up trucks to army lorries, officials allege. To date, the most ingenious, if tasteless Bhutanese rival to the Polish undertaker smuggler must be the man whose load was found hidden in a pig’s carcase.

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    Thailand: first to put cigarettes “out of sight” Thailand, which on any assessment has one of the world’s most advanced tobacco control programmes, now requires all tobacco displays to be kept out of sight. Tobacco Control thinks this is the first nation to have required this, although the Canadian state of Saskatchewan was the first jurisdiction to mandate the “under the counter” rule. A recent visit to Bangkok showed good compliance. The photograph on the left shows a bare display window viewed from the street, with a sign informing smokers that tobacco is sold inside. A few doors down from where this shot was taken, a 7-Eleven store’s in-shop display shows the chain’s as yet unaltered policy of displaying the packs—Simon Chapman, Editor

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