No ifs, no butts! Lighting up could face you with one year in jail, a maximum of 100,000 Baht fine or if you are really unlucky, both. The move is inspired as the government is looking to clean up Thailand’s environmental act. It is believed that cigarette butts make up a staggering one-third of all rubbish on Thailand’s beaches and cause extensive pollution as well as drain damage, according to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR). Thailand’s national newspaper, The Bangkok Post, reported that Thailand holds a lousy sixth place in the world for the most rubbish areas of coast and sea.
Millions of tourists flock to Patong Beach in Phuket each year, many unaware of the dirty secret this world-famous tropical holiday hotspot is hiding. The DMCR’s recent survey of the beach’s litter found an average of 0.76 cigarette butts per square meter littering the 2.5 kilometre stretch of sand, equating to a horrific 101,058 cigarette butts on Patong’s “pristine” white sand beach. The Director General of the DMCR, Jatuporn Buruspat, said:
“The butts clog the drains contributing to floods. When the cigarettes stay under the beach sand for a long time, it also negatively affects the ecosystem. And then when the chemicals from the cigarette butts reach the water, it also releases cadmium, lead, arsenic and some acid from insecticide which are poison to the natural food chain.”
After a number of volunteer beach cleanups initiated by the Marine and Coastal Department and in collaboration with local environmental advocacy groups such as Trash Hero, Jatuporn Buruspat announced under Section 17 of the Marine and Coastal Management Promotion that smoking would be prohibited from November 2017 onwards. The law will be enforced on 20 of Thailand’s beaches, including Patong Beach, Hua Hin Beach, Cha-Am Beach, Pattaya Beach, and Jomtien Beach. After the trial period, the smoking ban will be enforced on all beaches across Thailand and the smoking prohibition also extends to offshore vessels.
So, while you can’t just stub your butts out on the pristine sands of this faraway land anymore, you will still be able to smoke at designated areas set back from the beach. Thailand’s latest smoking enforcements have received mixed reviews on Twitter with some netizens saying tourists should skip Thailand all together while others are asking if other countries should consider adopting the same smoking ban on their beaches. While it might be tempting to think that the Land of Smiles’ laws around smoking and vaping are increasingly harsh, if it is in a bid to conserve the natural environment – and keep Thailand beautiful – then tourists should be supportive of the initiative.