The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) strongly supports Thailand’s decision to ban smoking in its popular beaches starting November to decrease environmental litter and pollution.
“We are very pleased with this news and we urge the government to be strong in the enforcement, monitor the compliance and impose penalty strictly,” said Dr Domilyn Villarreiz, SEATCA’s Smoke-Free Programme manager and secretary-general of the Smoke-Free Cities Asia Pacific Network.
The ban will include 20 beaches in the provinces of Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri, Songkhla, Koh Samui and Pattaya. Those in violation could be fined up to Bt100,000 (US$3,000) or face a year in prison. The Marine and Coastal Resources Department found between 63,000 and 138,000 cigarette butts on a 2.5-kilometre stretch of Patong Beach, Phuket. Discarded cigarette butts accounted for a third of all beach waste collected by the department and are the most commonly discarded piece of waste globally.
The non-biodegradable cellulose acetate filter is the main cigarette butt waste and it contains hazardous substances including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol. These poisons are leached from discarded butts into aquatic environments and soil. Studies show that cigarette butts can cause digestive blockages if eaten, and they have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals.
“Thailand is famous for its beautiful sandy white beaches and stunning clear blue seas which are frequently visited by families and tourists. These public places should also be free from tobacco smoke. Research shows that smoke-free policies in parks, beaches and other recreational areas where youth and families gather work and are very popular, effective and good for business that is why they are spreading so quickly worldwide. More importantly, smoke-free policies can reduce and even prevent tobacco use among the youth,” said Dr Villarreiz.
“It is high time that Thailand ban smoking on its beaches and fine violators. This is not only good for the environment but ultimately good for people’s health and the economy,” she added.
SE Asia Tobacco Control Alliance