In my last post I described how Thailand is going about dealing with the perceived problem of cigarette butts littering beaches, using the proverbial ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach favoured by politicians around the world. The obvious solution to the problem was of course to provide plenty of receptacles for the disposal of cigarette ends and use the current littering laws to deal with any miscreants who discard their fag ends carelessly. But that was far too easy, and also didn’t have the added attraction of singling out smokers (in particular foreign tourists, also known in Thailand as ‘walking ATMs’) for special punishment.
So The Powers That Be declared certain beaches ‘No Smoking Areas’ (with the plan being to extend the ban to all beaches in Thailand) under the existing Environmental Protection laws, just tagging it on to the current anti-pollution legislation as an addendum.
But to show how much Thailand values its foreign visitors (really, even those awful smokers), the authorities have taken the rather bizarre decision to provide ‘smoking shelters’ next to the beach.
หาดบางแสน จ.ชลบุรี เข้าสู้การบังคับใช้เป็น "เขตปลอดบุหรี่"นายจตุพร บุรุษพัฒน์ อธิบดีกรมทรัพยากรทางทะเลและชายฝั่ง ตรวจเยี่ยมติดตามโครงการ "ชายหาดบางแสนปลอดบุหรี่" ตามที่กรมทรัพยากรทางทะเลและชายฝั่ง ได้ประกาศบังคับให้แหล่งท่องเที่ยวทางทะเล จำนวน 20 แห่ง รวมถึงชายหาดบางแสน และชายหาดถ้ำพัง เกาะสีชัง เป็นเขตปลอดบุหรี่ โดยเริ่มมีผลบังคับ วันที่ 1 พฤศจิกายน 2560 เป็นต้นไป ซึ่งทางเทศบาลได้ทำการติดป้ายห้ามสูบบุหรี่ และจัดทำจุดสูบบุหรี่ไว้ให้กับนักท่องเที่ยว บริเวณชายหาดบางแสน โดยทำเป็นตู้กระจก เพื่อให้คนเข้าไปสูบบุหรี่ จำนวน 10 จุด ทั่วหาดบางแสน
Posted by เรื่องเด่นเย็นนี้ ช่อง3 on Wednesday, October 18, 2017
These structures, as can be seen in the video, and picture below, are clear plexiglass, and have the all-important extractor fan in the roof.
Now anyone who has ever been in Thailand (or indeed, anyone who has a passing knowledge of geography) will know that it is a tropical climate, and that the sun is normally very strong.
So one can only imagine what sort of temperatures will pertain in this purpose-built greenhouse, when the ambient temperature is 38° C and the sun is shining full on the clear panels, but I would guess it would be somewhere about boiling point, which is slightly above what most people would consider to be their comfort zone.
Add to that the quite sublime pointlessness of having an outdoor structure in which, for some reason, you wish to confine smokers. With a fan in the ceiling extracting all that smoke to the air just outside the cabin.
Sheer genius! Give that man a coconut!
I may be missing some subtlety here known only to the Thais, but it appears on the face of it to be a spectacularly flawed plan. Particularly when you consider that where this little paean to Thai ingenuity is sited (on the street just back a bit from the beach), there are actually no restrictions on smoking anyway, so if you so choose, you can sit on a nice shaded bench in the open air just yards away from the ‘smoking booth’ and have a smoke.
Amazing Thailand. Whoever dreamt this little scheme up is destined for great things.
When this beach smoking ban was first mooted, the papers were full of stories of 100,000 Baht fines and prison sentences, which given that in Thailand you can get ten years jail for possessing a vaping device was perhaps not so far-fetched. However, as I thought at the time, the fine for smoking on the beach, it has been announced, will be a fixed 2,000 Baht (about €50).
(You can just make out the ‘2000 Baht’ on the sign.)
Now the signs have gone up, the local police are apparently cruising up and down the beach in anticipation of prising open a few tourist wallets. It should make for a particularly good Songkran party down at police headquarters next April! The imported booze will be flowing freely!
But all this ingenuity aside, what we are seeing here is yet another restriction aimed at smokers, yet another slice of the salami on the way to the ‘End Game’. Thailand has been at the forefront of anti-smoker legislation for years, and this is just another manifestation of their enthusiasm for all things FCTC. There have been mixed reactions from the expat community in Thailand to this latest attack on smokers (I’m a fairly regular participant on a Thai based forum that covers a lot of current affairs there), the bulk of them, even the ones from mildly anti-smoking commenters, heaping derision on the whole business. However, naturally enough, there are some that are genuine smoker-haters, who think it’s a great idea because it adds one more layer of discomfort for smokers:
Why should any time, money or effort should be spent on providing any specific facilities for smokers in any public place, even ashtrays. It’s a stinking, unsocial, polluting, dirty habit. Why should anyone be forced to have to accommodate, or suffer from, in any way those who do it? I don’t see any public toilets along the beaches, so why build specific structures for smoking? The former is a basic human necessity and people easily find somewhere to go when required, the latter is voluntary, so if it’s not convenient to do it in private then don’t do it. Message to smokers: It’s your choice…if you can smoke without affecting others, i.e. not allow the smoke to blow around where others have to breath it, and not drop the butts on the ground, that’s fine, do it. The problem is that you can’t, so don’t do it in public…then there would not have to be such measures as is now being implemented…take responsibility yourselves.
And, more succinctly:
at last Thailand s doing something good. Ban all these “cancer to be” smokers far away from non smokers, or better detain them….
Oh yes, the haters are everywhere! They’ve infected almost every corner of the globe, and spew their bile at every opportunity. It’s just a fact of life, these days. It just saddens me that these misanthropes are constantly having their warped belief system reinforced by the actions of Tobacco Control, adding yet more fuel to their already demented fires.
And I still don’t know how they intend to prosecute pipe smokers (or indeed, smokers of unfiltered cigarettes like roll-ups) for smoking on the beach under the environmental protection laws, since no filter cigarette butts are involved. I would guess that they’re relying on the fact that most (if not all) people will just pay the 2000 Baht fine rather than go to the expense of hiring a lawyer to fight the case, which is impractical for a tourist on a fortnight holiday anyway. And the locals who might get caught (unlikely, since wealthy tourists are the target) will just use the time-honoured ploy of slipping the cop a couple of hundred Baht to make the problem go away.
Ah, Thailand, the land of smiles.