Signs threatening fines of “up to 100,000 baht” ($3000 US) have failed to deter smokers from enjoying a cigarette on popular beaches in Jomtien, Pattaya, Dongtan and Naklua. Local media has reported that as of August, beaches are still covered in cigarette butts, taking this as evidence that the ban is not being effectively enforced.
Like the prohibition on motorists driving through red lights, baht buses not using marked stops, food vendors pouring grease down sewers and street peddlers swarming tour buses, with police nor city hall doing anything to enforce the smoking ban it was ignored just like all the other authorities’ edicts.
Local police are authorized to issue fines however it does not seem to have been enforced, with a spokesperson for the city reportedly commenting that only “commissioned police officers” are able to give the fines, and they have been directed not to because it might hurt tourism. This is another instance where the Thai bureaucracy is troubled by conflicting edicts from various levels of superiors be they the burghers in Bangkok or local generals looking to protect their own interests.
Of course it is possible that police are issuing “unofficial” fines to people caught smoking and these of course do not filter through into the official statistics. In order to avoid such a fine it would be advisable to extinguish your cigarette if you see a police officer approaching, or possibly cross to the other side of the road to avoid the ban.
The Thai health ministry has reportedly declared war on smoking as the number one public health risk. This can be seen by the fact that cigarette packaging contains graphic health warnings. However the policies do not seem to be filtering out and working at a practical level. For starters cigarettes are still fairly cheap especially compared to Western countries where they are very heavily taxed. The price of a pack from 7/11 is around 100 baht, sometimes more by about 50 baht for premium brands.
As we have reported recently about fines issued by police, the fact is that there are often national laws or local ordinances on the books, that police in practice do not enforce, or only enforce when it suits them. For example, any item that is classified as a sex toy is technically illegal in Thailand. Yet this law is hardly even enforced. On the streets, you will occasionally see a checkpoint issuing fines to motorcyclists failing to wear a helmet, but more often you can see many, maybe even a majority of riders, going past police with no problem. For tourists it is usually best not to be the unlucky person who is made an example of. If riding a motorcycle, have an international driving permit with the correct endorsement for motorcycles, and wear a helmet.
Another example is that technically there is a public law requiring foreigners to carry their original passport at all times, however at times the police have issued contradicting statements saying that this is not the case. In Pattaya at least, it is very rarely enforced, even if you are taken to the police station it is fine to explain that your passport is in the hotel and they will either escort you or send an officer to retrieve the copy that the hotel has on file.