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Beach-going smokers will have to weigh a year in jail before lighting up next month.
Starting Feb. 1, a smoking ban piloted late last year will go into effect at 24 beaches across 15 provinces. They include popular tourist destinations in Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Tao, coastal authorities said Wednesday.
“We aren’t limiting the rights of people who want to smoke. There will be designated places to smoke near the beach,” Bannarak Sermthong, director at the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources said. “But on the beaches, smoking affects the health of families and little children who come on vacation.”
Bannarak added that beach trash – especially cigarette butts – eventually pollute the water and harm sea life by entering their food chain.
The maximum penalty for smoking on the beach will be a fine of 100,000 baht and a year in jail. Bannarak said that at the beginning, the law would be used as more of a warning than strictly enforced.
How evenly the ban is then enforced remains to be seen, as similar prohibitions in other public spaces are routinely ignored. Smoking electronic cigarettes is not an alternative – they’re already illegal.
Nuttawut Phetpornhomsorn, Phetchaburi deputy governor, said that a Marine and Coastal Resources Research Center study found approximately 100,000 cigarette butts strewn across the province’s 5.5 kilometer Cha-am Beach.
Signs in Thai, English and Chinese will be displayed at these beaches, Nuttawut said. The beaches’ business operators have also been informed to help caution tourists about the new law.
“If people smoke outside of the smoking zone and we see it, we will either warn them or take them down to the police station,” Senior Sgt. Maj. Kiattisak Srichan of Hua Hin Tourist Police said Thursday. “We will do regular patrols on the beach, rather than staring and guarding the beaches.”
Smoke-free beaches in Pattaya will include Bang Saen, Tum Pang, Sai Kaew and Dong Tal.
Cha-am Beach in Phetchaburi, Hua Hin and Khao Takiab Beaches in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin District and Sai Ri Beach in Chumphon are also in the list.
Island beaches that authorities hope will become butt-free are Bo Put Beach on Koh Samui, Chalok Ban Kao Beach on Koh Tao in Surat Thani and the ever-popular Patong Beach on Phuket.
Plai Sai Beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chalatat Beach in Songkhla, Wasukri Beach in Pattani, Koh K่hai Nok and Koh Khai Nai Beaches in Phang Nga, Pra-ae, Khlong Dao and Kaw Kwang Beaches in Krabi and Chao Samran Beach in Trang are the southern beaches included in the ban.
Authorities have tried to discourage smoking with recent laws. In November, they banned smoking on 20 beaches after a large number of cigarette butts were found on Phuket’s Patong Beach. In July it became illegal to give cigarettes to minors. Until then, only sale to those under 21 had been forbidden.