THE MARINE and Coastal Resources Department plans to ban smoking on beaches around the country next month after thousands of cigarette butts were found in the sand.
The ban will take effect on selected beaches during the pilot phase, including three in the popular beach city of Krabi.
“To ensure tourists are aware of the smoking ban, we will erect signs with the ban announcements on the beaches of Phra Ae, Klong Dao and Klong Kwang,” Wittaya Khunsan, chief of Krabi’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said yesterday.
He added that the announcements would be made in Thai, English and Mandarin.
Ekawit Pinyothammanothai, chairman of the Krabi Tourism Industry Council, said he agreed with the ban but hoped there would be time to raise public awareness before it took effect. A local resident in Krabi, Bodin Klasamut, said if the ban took effect, the relevant authorities should make sure there were designated smoking zones.
In the pilot project, the department has invoked a coastal resources management law to issue a smoking ban on 20 popular beaches early next month.
Marine Department chief Jatuporn Buruphat said he had consulted with Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Kanchanarat, who agreed with the ban. As it will be based on marine park law, offenders will be subject to maximum penalties of one year in jail or a Bt100,000 fine.
Jatuporn said the ban had been discussed with provincial governors and local administrations. The 20 beaches involved include Mae Pim, Laem Sing, Bang Saen, Cha-am, Khao Takiab, Bo Phut, Haad Sai Ree, Patong, Pattaya, Jomtien, Koh Khai Nok and Koh Khai Nai.
The Department decided to take action after the Andaman Coastal Resources Research and Development Centre recently found between 63,000 and 138,000 cigarette butts on a 2.5-kilometre stretch of Patong Beach. The estimate was based on a survey of a nine-square-metre area to a depth of 10 centimetres. The survey found an average of 0.76 cigarette butt per square metre of sand.
“We won’t totally ban smoking but we will set aside smoking areas for smokers before they reach the beach. They can drop their cigarette butts there but they will not be allowed to stroll on the beach while smoking,” Jatuporn said. “Doing that allows for a high possibility of cigarette butts being dropped in the sand.”
Jatuporn said his department would soon expand the ban to cover every beach in the country and the department would also consider a smoking ban on passenger and tourist boats to prevent cigarette butts being dropped into the sea.