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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Thai beach smoking ban: why more places should follow suit 

Smokers caught offending on one of Thailand's 25 "smoke-free" beaches face a year in jail and/or a fine of over Dh11,000

A beach in Krabi, Thailand. Some beaches in the area have banned smoking. Pixabay
A beach in Krabi, Thailand. Some beaches in the area have banned smoking. Pixabay

We’ve all been there. You’re relaxing on an open beach, sailing on a boat, up a mountain or sitting outdoors at a cafe or restaurant, inhaling the fresh air...and then you notice it. Someone nearby – or maybe a whole group, is smoking, their fumes polluting the breeze and poisoning the moment. They don’t care, of course: if they did, they wouldn’t do it. Most seem to think that because it’s “outside”, it doesn’t matter. But the air we breathe is a shared space, so smoking on a beach is almost as bad as driving on it.

Initially introduced on a trial basis last November, Thailand has this week introduced a full ban on smoking and the dropping of cigarette butts on 24 of the country's most popular beaches, including several in Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and Surat Thani. And the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources says the ban is expected to be rolled out across more beaches in future. Designated smoking areas are available for people who must light up.

The ban followed a survey last year which found over 100,000 discarded cigarette butts on a single 2.5km stretch in Patong, Phuket. As well as being an eyesore, the butts are toxic to marine life. Anyone caught breaking the law faces up to a year in prison, a fine of up to 100,000 baht (Dh11,650), or both.

While most Thai beaches are unaffected by the ban – the country has over 350 "official" beaches - this is at least a start. Around the world, countries are waking up to the call for smoke-free environments. Last year, the Philippines issued an executive order bringing in a public ban on smoking in all public spaces, but most other countries, like Thailand, have only introduced piecemeal bans on smoking in certain areas.

National legislation banning smoking in all public indoor areas exists in a surprising variety of countries, including Canada, Australia, Russia, most of South America, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as most Nordic countries, Turkey, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Turkmenistan.

Hopefully, restrictions on smoking around the world will continue to tighten and include a complete ban on smoking at airports, including in those not-so-airtight “smoking cabins”, beside the hotel swimming pool and – possibly worst of all – long distance coach journeys in countries like Vietnam, where there is no national legislation on smoking.

Other countries which smokers should perhaps head to, where there are no known “smoke free” restrictions, include Greenland, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guyana, Suriname, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Yemen, Myanmar, Uzbekistan and Belarus. Bon voyage.

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