Expats and tourists astonished by Thai beaches smoking ban

Published:  11 Oct at 6 PM
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Expats and tourists alike were stunned by today’s announcement that smoking will be banned on 20 of Thailand’s main tourist beaches.

It seems the ban was introduced after a report from the country’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources that employees had picked up tens of thousands of butts from one beach. The report claimed the vast number of discarded cigarette butts represented a third of all the waste commonly found on Thai beaches.

Those breaking the new law are to be fined up to 100,000 baht (£2,280) and imprisoned for a minimum of one year. Off-beach designated smoking areas will be provided, equipped with bins for butts and other refuse. The announcement was met by open-mouthed amazement from the majority of the large expat community in Thailand, and spurred a wide selection of comments on local English-language forums.

Sarcasm as regards the size of the fines as against the crime wasn’t prohibited, nor were pics of beaches covered in discarded plastic bags, polystyrene food containers and less salubrious rubbish including dirty nappies. Apparently, some 138,000 cigarette butts were collected and presumably counted from a 2.5km stretch of Phuket’s Patong beach. One comment on a well-known forum said the haul represented one butt for every 2.3 cms of beach.

The ban is is now being trialled on 20 beaches in provinces including Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Songkhla and Chon Buri and is due to come into force next month. If it proves successful, it will be spread to include all of Thailand’s beaches. For expats and tourists hoping vaping would be a successful substitute, it’s almost as risky as smoking on a beach as it’s totally banned and results in a fine and up to 10 years in jail.

One unhappy expat working as a manager at Langley Travel told the sad story of her nephew James, who was caught smoking an e-cigarette in Bangkok. He was forced to pay £125 as an on-the-spot fine by local police, with the only alternative a prison sentence. His aunt, as are many expats in Thailand, was totally unaware of the ban on vaping. November through February is Thailand’s tourism high season, with expat posters on Thailand forums speculating as to the effect on arrivals once a number of visitors have been arrested and fined or imprisoned for smoking on a beach.
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