Smoking will be banned on 20 major Thai beaches from November. And smokers who flout the law will face a year’s jail or a 100,000 baht fine….or both. The strict penalties are in line with existing ordinances concerning causing damage to the environment.
Studies have shown that cigarette butts are a major cause of environmental damage not just to the sea and beaches but Thailand in general. And the government – in a step by step by step approach – is targeting smokers as it tries to rid the country of an unwanted tag as one of the biggest environmental polluters in the world. No mention was made about smokers’ health in a Daily News story – the Thais are getting more concerned about the well being of the environment.
Smoking will be banned in November as the tourist high season gets rolling in many high profile locations – these include all beaches in Pattaya, Jomtien, Phuket, Cha-Am, Hua Hin and Bang Saen. Others mentioned in the story were in Phang Nga and Samila in Songkhla, Mae Phim and Laem Singh.
Environment ministry expert Jatuporn Burutphat said that studies – particularly one in Phuket – showed that cigarette butts made up a major proportion of all trash on beaches and in the sea. Surveys revealed up to 138,000 butts on each 2.5 kilometer stretch of Thai coast. Nationwide there are thought to be 100 million cigarettes discarded each day. When leached of their harmful contents by water, potentially deadly substances such as cadmium and lead enter the environment and food chain.
No new laws need to be made. The authorities will use ordinances passed in 2015 about damage to the environment. These allow for one year prison terms and 100,000 baht fines or both. Jatuporn said that people will not be allowed to walk along the beach and smoke. A certain proportion of smokers’ cigarettes would always end up on the beach if that was permitted, he said.
So smokers will have to stub out their cigarettes at places that will be set up before entry to beaches. Authorities will be on hand to enforce the law, he said. Also plans are being made to enforce the no smoking law on all passenger boats and pleasure boats in Thai waters as cigarettes discarded directly into the sea are a major problem.
Jatuporn said that Thailand would host a major ASEAN environment conference in Phuket from October 22 to 23 in which sea and beach trash issues will be top of the agenda. He said that he was determined to do something serious about the tag of “sixth worst polluter oif the ocean in the world” that has been applied to Thailand this year.