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Thailand has announced that it will ban smoking on 20 of its most popular tourist beaches around the country with the prospect of up to a year in jail and/or a 100,000 baht (US$3,000) fine for those caught lighting up while getting a tan.
The move follows a survey done last month on Phuket’s popular Patong Beach by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, and comes ahead of an international conference being held in Phuket later this month on sea waste.
The survey, which examined nine square meters of Patong Beach, found an average of 0.76 cigarette butts per square meter, suggesting that the beach could be littered with up to 101,058 butts along its 2.5km length.
Jatuporn Buruspat, the Marine Department’s director general, told the Phuket Gazette discarded cigarette butts had become a “serious problem” on Phuket’s beaches, accounting for a third of all garbage collected by the department.
“Cigarettes have a direct effect on the natural environment,” said Jatuporn. “The butts clog the drains contributing to floods. When 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 insecticides, which are poison to the natural food chain.”
The smoking ban, which comes into play in November, will affect the following beaches around the country:
Pang Nga: Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nai
Prachuap Khiri Khan: Khao Takieb
Surat Thani: Bo Phut
Chumphon: Haad Sai Ree
Chonburi: Pattaya, Jomtien and Bang Saen
Rayong: Mae Rim
Chanthaburi: Laem Sing
Krabi: Phra Ae, Klong Dao, Klong Kwang and four others
The ban is expected to be extended to all of Thailand’s beaches, including passenger ferries and tourist boats, after a trial period.