BANGKOK (AFP) - Smokers who flout a smoking ban on 20 of Thailand's most famous tourist beaches will face a 100,000 baht (S$4,095) fine or up to a year in prison, Thai authorities have said.
The ban, which comes into force in November, follows a cleanup of nearly 140,000 cigarette butts from a 2.5km stretch of the famed Patong beach in Phuket island province.
Its introduction coincides with Thailand's peak tourist season and will be enforced in visitor hot spots including Krabi, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phuket and Phang Nga.
"These beaches are among the most beautiful in South-east Asia, and the aim is to keep them that way," Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said in a statement on Monday (Oct 16).
Smokers will have to use designated areas with proper waste disposal for cigarette butts, he added.
Those caught lighting up on the beach could face jail or a 100,000 baht fine, according to TAT.
The edict is the latest effort to rein in Thailand's free-wheeling tourism industry.
The sector is a crucial pillar of Thailand's economy, catering to more than 30 million travellers per year.
But the huge numbers of arrivals have also threatened to spoil some of the kingdom's idyllic beaches, with litter and unchecked development damaging local ecosystems.
Thailand is also trying to crack down on lax safety standards that riddle the tourism industry, after waves of complaints that visitors are overcharged or not adequately protected on boats and jet-skis.