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.
In a pioneer project, the department is to invoke a coastal resources management law on to issue the smoking ban on 20 popular beaches early next month, said department chief Jatuporn Buruphat.
Jatuporn said he had consulted with Natural Resources and Environment Minister Gen Surasak Kanchanarat and the minister agreed with the proposal. Since the ban will be based on marine park law, offenders will be subject to huge maximum penalties of one year in jail or 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, Jomthien, Koh Khai Nok and Koh Khai Nai.
Jatuporn said he decided to take action after the Andaman Coastal Resources Research and Development Centre found in a recent survey that there were anything from 63,000 to 138,000 cigarette butts on a 2.5-kilometre stretch of Patong Beach.
The figure was estimate based on a sampling survey of a 9-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 area 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 cigarette butt being dropped into the sand."
Jatuporn added that his department would soon expand the ban to cover every beach in the country.
He said the department would also consider a smoking ban on passenger and tourist boats to tackle the issue of cigarette butts dropped into the sea.