Thailand has announced a smoking ban on 20 of its beaches, including some in major tourist destinations such as Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi.
Beaches hit by the ban, effective from November 1, were found by inspectors to have been littered with thousands of discarded cigarette butts.
"This does not mean people cannot smoke at all. There will be designated areas for smoking on each beach away from the sea," said Jatuporn Buruspat, the department's director general of the country’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMRC).
Those who fail to comply will be subject to a fine of 100,000 baht (£2,278) and a maximum jail sentence of one year, according to the DMRC. The ban will be run on a trial basis at the 20 beaches but could be rolled out across the rest of the country.
It has yet to be confirmed how long the trial period will last and how the ban will be enforced.
Among the most popular beaches included, Bangkok Post reports, are Phra Ae and Khlong Dao on Krabi, Tha Wa Sukri in Pattani, Patong in Phuket, and Bo Phut on Koh Samui.
The latest measure follows a report from the DMRC last month which revealed that 101,058 cigarette butts were found on a single 2.5-kilometre stretch on Patong, accounting for 30 per cent of the waste found on the beach, Jatuporn said.
Smoking restrictions by country
Click on a country below to see its smoking policies
Smoking laws around the world
How big is the environmental impact of cigarette butts on beaches?
“Cigarette butts are a major source of pollution, both on land and in our oceans, and more than five trillion cigarette filters are produced every year,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), told Telegraph Travel. “One cigarette butt in a litre of water can make it toxic enough to kill fish. For these and other reasons, the Thai authorities determined that banning smoking on those beaches was necessary.”
Zoe Abbott, the Wales Coast award coordinator from Keep Britain Tidy, the charity behind the Blue Flag beach awards scheme, which highlights beaches meeting the highest environmental standards, added: “The small size of cigarette ends makes them time consuming and costly to clean – on beaches, this can involve mechanical sieving and deep cleaning of the sand. They can take up to 15 years to break down and contain toxins which leach into the environment. Voluntary smoking bans in areas that struggle with smoking related litter may be appropriate.”
So far, two beaches in Britain have introduced smoking bans – Caswell Bay in Swansea and Little Haven in Pembrokeshire, which became the UK’s first smoke-free beach last year. Back in 2015, Brighton Council also considered introducing a smoking ban on its beaches and parks.
Not everyone supported the idea. “Winter or summer, the beach is the free-thinking city's heart and soul. Stubbing out smoking on Brighton beach doesn't so much go against the grain as strike a hammer blow to the city's libertarian values,” Telegraph Travel’s Teresa Machan, a longtime Brighton resident, said at the time of the announcement.
“When it comes to the invasion of space give me a beach-smoking neighbour over a leary out-of-town stag pack or raucous hen party any day. How about banning lager louts on busy family beaches before 6pm? Or alcohol-fuelled "away" fans altogether?” she added.
Best beaches in England