Article Thailand: Ban on Smoking on Beaches

(Oct. 26, 2017) It was reported on October 11, 2017, that the Thai government will ban smoking on 20 of the country’s popular tourist beaches beginning in November. (Thailand Bans Smoking on Beaches, THAI LAW FORUM (Oct. 11, 2017); Smoking Ban Planned at 20 Popular Beaches, BANGKOK POST (Oct. 10, 2017).)  The maximum punishment for those who violate the ban will be a fine of up to 100,000 baht (about US$3,018) and/or a prison term of up to one year.  (Thailand Bans Smoking on Beaches, supra.)

Jatuporn Buruspat, Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), was quoted as saying that the beaches in question were “found to be constantly littered with huge numbers of discarded cigarette butts.”  (Smoking Ban Planned at 20 Popular Beaches, supra.)  He announced that the decision on the ban was taken following a cleanup operation on Phuket’s Patong beach, where, after collecting trash, “we found that there is an average of 0.76 cigarette per square metre, with a total 101,058 collected so far. This is a serious problem.”  (Thailand Bans Smoking on Beaches, supra.)  Buruspat elaborated on the seriousness of the litter to the Phuket Gazette, stating:

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 eco system. 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.  (Nattha Thepbamrung & Kritsada Mueanhawong, Update: Beach Butt Ban, PHUKET GAZETTE (Oct. 10, 2017).)

The discarded butts made up a third of all the trash collected, according to the DMCR.  Buruspat also commented that Thailand has been judged to have the sixth most garbage-strewn sea areas in the world.  (Smoking Ban Planned at 20 Popular Beaches, supra.)

Legal Background

Smoking on beaches, and also smoking on offshore boats, has actually been illegal since 2015, with the adoption of the Act on the Promotion of Marine and Coastal Resources Management, but the Act has not been enforced.  (Id.)  Section 17 of the Act prescribes that if it appears that any person causes severe damage to marine and coastal resources, the Director-General or a person assigned by him or her will have the authority to order that person to temporarily stop the action or activity causing damage to those resources.  (Act on the Promotion of Marine and Coastal Resources Management, B.E. 2558 (2015), art. 17 ¶ 1, Office of the Council of State website (unofficial translation).)  Section 27 of the Act states, “[a]ny person who fails to comply with an order given under section 17 shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding one year or to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand baht or to both.”  (Id.)

Buruspat stated that the provinces of Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri, and Songkhla had jointly agreed to invoke section 17 of the Act as a trial measure and institute the ban on the 20 beaches. Certain “designated areas” further inland will be provided where smokers can drop their litter “in provided containers” before entering the beaches.  (Smoking Ban Planned at 20 Popular Beaches, supra.)

Once the trial period is over, it is likely that the ban will be enforced on all Thai beaches and also on passenger and tourist boats, to remedy the damage inflicted by the waste on the underwater environment. (Will Coldwell, Thailand Bans Smoking on 20 Popular Tourist Beaches, GUARDIAN (Oct. 11, 2017).)

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