THIMPHU, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Despite the government's efforts, controlling alcohol abuse still remains a major challenge in Bhutan, said a report presented at the National Council (the upper house of parliament) this week.
Liver disease caused by alcohol continues to be the leading cause of death in Bhutan. Between 2015 to 2017 more than 514 patients who suffered from alcohol liver disease have died, according to the interim report.
The National Council's Good Governance Committee has presented the report for discussion.
In 2017, reports from the Health Ministry revealed that more than 100 people die every year due to alcohol-related diseases, which makes alcohol the top killer in Bhutan.
Owning to its total free health care, the government of Bhutan has been spending millions of U.S. dollars in treating patients suffering from alcohol-related diseases both within the country and those sent abroad for treatment.
Alcohol is cheap and easily available within the country while there are certain rules including age limit on alcohol consumption, dry days and zero tolerance days. However, despite enormous efforts the consumption is still found to be increasing, according to officials.
As per the interim report, from September 2016 to 2018 around 6,529 traffic offences were reported due to drunk driving. The number of traffic offences caused by drunk driving has not dropped despite enforcement of "zero tolerance" on every Friday.
Bhutan's cultural acceptance to alcohol, weak coordination among rule implementing agencies, availability and affordability and lack of family support were blamed for harmful alcohol consumption, said the report.