Smokers in Nepal got a bit of bad news last week. The country's government will soon enact a law preventing them from lighting up at public places.
The law here will not be as stringent as Bhutan, where debate is still on over a three year jail term to a Buddhist monk last month for 'smuggling' in $2.5 of tobacco from India, but the development is significant.
More than half of Nepal's male population consume tobacco and people smoking on streets, buses, hotels, government offices, hospitals is a common sight. One fifth of the country's women also share the habit.
Smokers may frown, but for a poor country like Nepal, the new law makes economic sense as well. Records say nearly 25,000 people die due to tobacco consumption related causes each year.
Revenue earning from sale of tobacco products was NRs 3.77 billion last year. But the government spent around NRs 47 billion for treatment of patients afflicted by smoking related diseases.
Besides ban on smoking at public places, only those with license will be able to sell tobacco products as per the new law. Those under 18 and pregnant women also won't be able to buy tobacco.
Contrary to present trend, advertisements of tobacco products will cease and 75% space on cigarette covers will have to carry pictorial health warning on harmful effects of smoking.
A new provision in the law will prevent shopkeepers from selling loose cigarettes. Those who feel like taking an occasional puff will have to but an entire packet.
But more than enacting a new law, authorities in Nepal will have to focus on its implementation. India's two and half year old ban on smoking in public places has yielded results, but defaulters are still seen.
Unless effective steps are initiated to take action against violators and raise awareness levels, the law may go up in smoke.