Gambar SEATCA 2

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) strongly supports Thailand’s decision to ban smoking in its popular beaches starting November to decrease environmental litter and pollution.

“We are very pleased with this news and we urge the government to be strong in the enforcement, monitor the compliance and impose penalty strictly,” said Dr. Domilyn Villarreiz, SEATCA’s Smoke-Free Program Manager and Secretary General of Smoke-Free Cities Asia Pacific Network (SCAN).

The ban will include 20 beaches in the provinces of Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri and Songkhla, Koh Samui, and Pattaya. Those caught smoking on beaches where it is prohibited could be fined up to THB 100,000 (more or less US$ 3,000) or face imprisonment for up to a year. The Marine and Coastal Resources Department found between 63,000 and 138,000 cigarette butts on a 2.5-kilometer stretch of Patong Beach, Phuket. Discarded cigarette butts accounted for a third of all beach waste collected by the department.

According to the World Health Organization, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste globally and the most frequent item of litter picked up on beaches and water edges worldwide. The non-biodegradable cellulose acetate filter from manufactured cigarettes is the main cigarette butt waste and trillions of these butts are discarded annually. Hazardous substances including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol are found in cigarette butts. These poisons are leached from discarded butts into aquatic environments and soil. Other studies also show that cigarette butts can cause digestive blockages if eaten, and they have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals.

“Thailand is famous for its beautiful sandy white beaches and stunning clear blue seas which are frequently visited by families and tourists. These public places should also be free from tobacco smoke. Research shows that smoke-free policies in parks, beaches and other recreational areas where youth and families gather work and are very popular, effective and good for business that is why they are spreading so quickly worldwide. More importantly, smoke-free policies can reduce  and even prevent tobacco use among the youth,” said Dr. Villarreiz.

Article 8 Guidelines of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on theProtection from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke states that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and only 100 percent smoke-free environments can fully protect the public from the lethal effects of tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals including at least 70 known to cause cancer and the rest causing other serious health problems.

“Smoke-free beaches provide families and children healthy environments in which they are not exposed to the health harms of secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS). Even brief exposure can cause immediate and serious health harms. Thailand’s ban on smoking on its beaches will definitely decrease exposure to SHS,” remarked Villarreiz.

“It is high time that Thailand ban smoking on its beaches and fine violators. This is not only good for the environment but ultimately good for people’s health and the economy,” she added.