The Thai authorities are well known for making rash decisions based on reports by so-called experts and this week’s example is up there with the best, or should I say worst, of them. Smoking is to be prohibited on every beach in Phuket plus many more throughout Thailand!
And the punishment? Up to a 100,000 baht fine and/or one year’s imprisonment! Let’s put that into perspective: the usual fine for smoking in a prohibited area such as an air-conditioned restaurant or a public park is 2,000 baht. A typical fine for causing someone actual bodily harm is 500 baht!
The reasoning appears nothing to do with public health but it’s more of an environmental issue. Yes, those pesky cigarette butts are of more concern that the plastic bottles, used condoms, styrofoam containers and plastic bags that litter beaches throughout the Kingdom, not to mention raw sewage.
How will this be enforced? It appears that teams of police will be patrolling the beaches on the lookout for those lighting up. That would seem to be a means of topping up their monthly salaries; “You pay me 5,000 baht now and you won’t have to come to the police station!”.
What about e-cigarettes? They don’t produce butts. Maybe not, but they are illegal in Thailand and a potential double-whammy might hit anybody vaping on the beach!
People go to the beach to relax. They might want a beer and a cigarette before going for a swim, and why should this be a problem. I’m a non-smoker and you’d think as such that I welcome the idea but no, I don’t. I advocate the freedom of tourists to act as they would, at least within the law, on any beaches around the world. They’ve courted the Chinese market here for some time and China is in the top ten countries in the world of smokers as a percentage of the population.
Perhaps, though, Thailand isn’t quite as draconian as the Spanish beach resort of San Pedro del Pinatar, where ball-games and pissing in the ocean has been banned. I just hope some Thai expert doesn’t discover this gem! But it does show that stupid laws are not the exclusive domain of Thailand.
If the new edict is enforced as rigorously as the smoking laws in Bangkok’s bars then there will be nothing to worry about but if the police do see this as a nice little earner then it might be problematical for a while, before dying a death like so many Thailand crackdowns.
But let’s wait for the International press to react if and when the first Western tourist is fined 100,000 baht. That should do wonders for the Thai tourist industry. Though perhaps those clever folk at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) might just turn it to their advantage. Next market to tap into: non-smokers.