Smoking will soon be banned on 20 popular tourist beaches found to be constantly littered with huge numbers of discarded cigarette butts, according to the chief of marine and coastal resources.
The move comes ahead of an international conference on sea waste in Phuket later this month, Thai media reported.
An examination of just 9 square metres of Patong Beach on Phuket by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources’ Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Sept 9 found an average 0.76 butts per square metre. This translated into 101,058 butts along the 2.5km beach.
The discarded butts made up about one-third of all the rubbish collected.
Department director-general Jatuporn Buruspat also said it was estimated that more than 100 million cigarette butts were left on the roads in the major cities of Thailand each day. This greatly added to the problem of unnecessary flooding caused by rubbish clogging the drains.
He said Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri and Songkhla provinces had agreed to jointly invoke Section 17 of the 2015 law on marine and beach resources management as a trial measure and ban smoking at 20 beaches from next month.
These beaches are among the best-known and include Mae Phim in Rayong; Laem Sing in Chanthaburi; Bang Saen, Pattaya and Tham Pang on Koh Si Chang in Chon Buri; Cha-am in Phetchaburi; Hua Hin and Khao Takiap in Prachuap Khiri Khan; Patong in Phuket; Bo Phut on Koh Samui in Surat Thani; Sai Ri in Chumphon; Chalatas in Songkhla; Tha Wa Sukri in Pattani; Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nai on Koh Yao in Phangnga; and Phra Ae and Khlong Dao on Koh Lanta in Krabi.
All other beaches were expected to be included into this ban in the future, he said.
"Smokers will be required to drop their cigarette butts in provided containers before they enter these beaches…No more lighting up while strolling along the beach because that is most likely to end up with a huge number of cigarette butts being dropped on the beaches," Mr Jatuporn said.
Those found flouting the ban could face a maximum penalty of a year in prison and/or a fine of 100,000 baht.
His department is also considering measures to curb a related problem - cigarette butts being dropped into the sea from the boats.
Thailand has been judged to have the sixth most rubbish-strewn sea in the world, a problem which needs to be tackled with proper legal measures, he said.
Thailand will host an international meeting on sea waste in Phuket on Oct 22-23. Asean countries will discuss the problem of rubbish being dumped into the sea in each country, and how they are dealing with it, Mr Jatuporn added.