D-Day for beach smokers approaches
From Thursday, smokers who drop cigarette butts on beaches will face hefty fines and a possible jail term.
Twenty-four beaches will see a smoking ban enforced after authorities surveyed beaches in the holiday resort towns of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan and nearby Cha-am in Phetchaburi and found tens of thousands of cigarette butts buried in the sand.
The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) announced the smoking ban in 15 provinces will be a pilot project.
It is set to be launched at other beaches in the future.
Bannarak Sermthong, director of marine and coastal resources office 4, supervising beaches in Phetchaburi, said trash collected from beaches in Cha-am district was mostly discarded cigarette packs and butts.
The cigarette butts strewn on the beaches were found in the sand. Toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic could seep out of the butts.
The chemicals are harmful to aquatic creatures and the ecology, he said.
The smoking ban is being issued in a campaign to protect coastal resources with the 24 beaches earmarked for the pilot phase of the ban's launch.
The ban was invoked via a marine and coastal resources order which was published in the Royal Gazette on Nov 2 last year. The order stipulates offences from smoking in public areas of the beaches and discarding cigarette butts. Under the order, smoking is permitted in designated spots away from the beach.
Offenders are punishable by a maximum jail term of one year or a fine of up to 100,000 baht or both. Violators will be warned during the early stages of implementing the ban, Mr Bannarak said.
Natwadee Bantiwiwatkul, specialist at the Marine and Coastal Resources Research and Development Centre, the Central Gulf of Thailand, said onsite surveys of beaches in Hua Hin and Khao Takiab beaches in Prachuap Khiri Khan turned up large amounts of discarded cigarette butts.
The survey was conducted in 10 spots on each beach. Each spot measures 9sq m and the spots are 200 metres apart. The surveyors dug 10cm into the sand.
In one spot, Ms Natwadee said 116 cigarette butts were found buried under the sand.
Natthawut Phetpromsorn, the Phetchaburi deputy provincial governor, said more than 100,000 cigarette butts were collected along the 5.5km stretch of Cha-am beach.
Billboards have been erected along the beach announcing the smoking ban in Thai, Chinese and English. Pamphlets explaining the ban will also be handed out to beachgoers. The ban will later extend to other beaches in the province, the deputy governor said.
Fifty smoking areas have been allocated near the beach. Food stall vendors have been asked to advise people smoking outside permitted spots to put out their cigarettes.
DMCR deputy chief Sophon Thongdee said the smoking ban was crucial for the preservation of coastal resources as smoking and irresponsibly discarded cigarette butts posed a danger to the health of both people and aquatic animals.
Pailin Kongpan, deputy mayor of the Hua Hin municipality, said the ban would help keep the beaches clean and is good news for tourism.
Hotels and lodges were giving the municipality their cooperation by setting aside smoking areas for their customers before they step on to the beaches.
The beaches are Hat Chuen Ban in Trat; Hat Laem Sadet in Chanthaburi; Hat Saeng Chan in Rayong; Hat Bang Saen, Hat Tham Phung, Hat Sai Kaew, Hat Dong Tan and Pattaya beach in Chon Buri; Hat Cha-am in Phetchaburi; Hat Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan; Hat Sairee in Chumphon; Hat Bo Phut in Koh Samui district, Hat Chalok Ban Kao and Hat Koh Tao in Koh Phangan district of Surat Thani; Hat Plai Sai in Nakhon Si Thammarat; Hat Chala That in Songkhla; Hat Wasukri in Pattani; Hat Patong in Phuket; Hat Koh Kai Nok and Hat Koh Khai Nai in Phangnga; Hat Phra Ae, Hat Khlong Dao and Hat Kor Kwang in Krabi; and Hat Chao Samran in Trang.