The announcement on the smoking ban comes after an inspection conducted on nine square metres by 10 centimetres depth of Patong Beach yielded an average of 0.76 cigarette ends per sqm.
This estimates to an approximate 101,058 cigarette ends along the 2.5 kilometre stretch of Patong Beach.
“I have consulted with Gen Surasak Kanjanarat, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand [regarding the issue of smoking on beaches]. There will be measures implemented to reduce the amount of waste in the sea and on the beach,” said Mr Jatuporn.
“From the beginning of November 2017 onwards, we will enforce Section 17 of the 2015 law on marine and beach resources management at 20 beaches nationwide.
“We will organise smoking on beaches. We do not strictly prohibit smoking on the beach. It will be organised with correct places where to smoke,” he explained.
“Before entering the beach, there will be bins for disposing of cigarette ends. People will not be able to walk along the beach and smoke as the percentage of cigarette ends left on the beach is too high.
“There will be staff posted at the beaches. We have been working together with the local authorities to ensure that we comply fully with the law. Therefore, those who violate the law will face one year’s imprisonment, a fine not exceeding B100,000, or both,” confirmed Mr Jatuporn.
Regarding the recent findings made at Patong Beach, Mr Jatuporn said, “This information is very concerning. Further studies found that cigarette ends are the most common form of trash in beach areas," he said.
“About 30% are thrown into the environment and cause pollution of over 500,000 tons per year.
“It makes up of one third of the total number of waste on the beach and in the street or city in Thailand.” he said.
Mr Jatuporn explained that cigarette ends dropped into the environment have a direct impact on humans, such as contributing to flooding due to clogged drainage.
“Or, they may be washed down the canal into the sea and accumulate under the sand along the beach. This will have toxic effects for the ecosystem. Once exposed to water, toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead, arsenic and insecticide derivatives are released, bringing toxicity to the food chain.”
The 20 beaches where the law will be enforced are Mae Phim in Rayong; Laem Sing in Chanthaburi; Bang Saen, Pattaya and Tham Pang on Koh Si Chang in Chonburi; Cha-am in Phetchaburi; Hua Hin and Khao Takiap in Prachuap Khiri Khan; Patong in Phuket; Bo Phut on Koh Samui; Sai Ri in Chumphon; Chalatas in Songkhla; Tha Wa Sukri in Pattani; Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nai on Koh Yao in Phang Nga; and Phra Ae and Khlong Dao on Koh Lanta.
Mr Jatuporn added that cigarettes dumped into the sea from boats and tour boats are also a problem.
“For this, there will be measures in the short term, namely, a ban on smoking in passenger ships or cruise ships, which is the same measure used by airlines.
“I will discuss this with the Harbour Department to find out how to proceed,” he said.
He added that from Oct 22-23, Thailand will host the Asean meeting on sea waste in Phuket.
“I will present this matter at the meeting along with measures to reduce waste in the sea and to improve the situation in Thailand, as it has the sixth most marine waste in the world,” said Mr Jatuporn.