Thailand has, in recent years, become a destination for gap year students and groups of Brits hell-bent on partying. If comparisons to the, less beautiful, Spanish resort of Magaluf are anything to go by, gone are the days of deserted beaches and authentic cultural experiences (unless you travel a bit further afield than the popular islands of Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Chang and Phuket). But it seems Thai authorities are
tiring of the new reputation they have gained, and they’ve introduced some rules to curtail the 24-hour drinking culture.
Why have they brought the ban in?
The ban, which comes into effect this month (November) comes after Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) reported picking up over 138,000 cigarette butts on a 2.5km stretch on Patong beach in Phuket. It was said that a third of waste collected in the area was in fact from smokers.
Smokers will be encouraged to use designated smoking areas inland from the beach with places to dispose of butts properly. If you’re caught smoking you could be fined 100,000 baht, the equivalent of $3000 or face up to a year in prison.
Where will it take effect?
20 beaches will have the law imposed in the first instance, these include those in the provinces of:
- Surat Thani
- Chon Buri
- Prachuap Khiri Khan
If the measures are successful in managing waste on Thailand’s beaches, they are likely to be rolled out throughout the country. And plans are afoot to introduce the same types of rules on tourist boats too.
How do cigarette butts affect the environment?
So, apart from the obvious eyesore and impact on cleanliness, what are the environmental impacts of cigarette butts on beaches? Deborah Arnott, chief executive of public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), told Telegraph Travel. “One cigarette butt in a litre of water can make it toxic enough to kill fish.”
It’s not just beaches where litter from smokers is still, despite the smoking ban, causing huge issues for authorities across the world; not hard to believe when you realise more than five trillion cigarette filters are produced every year.
What does this mean for UK beaches?
Britain doesn’t seem to be far behind Thailand in tackling this coastal problem; two beaches have introduced the same rules so far – Caswell Bay in Wales and Little Haven beach in Pembrokeshire. There was also talk of free-thinking town Brighton following suit but plans have been put aside for now, citing a potential “hammer blow to the city’s libertarian values”.
It seems there is an international move towards making it increasingly difficult for smokers to continue their habits without being either side-lined, heavily taxed or indeed fined. Thailand banned the import of cigarettes in 2014, and soon after banned the export as well as the sale of e-cigarettes. If you think vaping could be the answer on the beach, technically you’ll be breaking the law by doing this too. So, if you’re thinking about travelling to Thailand this winter, perhaps it’s time to make a change and give yourself a detox – you’ll thank us later.