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Strict Smoking Bans In Thailand

Strict Smoking Bans In Force

All bars, pubs, discos, clubs and markets


A total ban on smoking in pubs and clubs throughout the country takes effect today, to the delight of non-smokers and the chagrin of smokers. The ban covers all air-conditioned bars, pubs, discos and clubs.

In addition, the owners of outdoor restaurants and markets are required to designate smoking and non-smoking zones.

”They will have to cross the street to smoke over there,” said Than Leebamrung, the 36-year-old owner of the Sapha Kafe (Coffee Council) bar, when asked what arrangements he had made to help his customers.

Other bars and clubs may simply ask customers to smoke outside in the doorways, but Mr Than was not sure if the same could be applied to his bar, which is in the Din Daeng area.

This is because it is situated in a commercial building, where smoking is not allowed.

Like Mr Than, most bar owners see the law as impinging on people’s civil liberties.

”People going to these entertainment places find it acceptable to be exposed to cigarette smoke. I have never received any complaints from non-smokers,” he said.

The owner of a bar on Khao San road, who asked not to be named, frowned on the ban, saying it would certainly affect his business.

”Lawmakers should instead allow operators to set up both smoking and non-smoking areas to be fair,” he said.

The law previously exempted nightclubs and bars from a smoking ban which was introduced in 2002.

The original ban covered indoor public places, including air-conditioned restaurants.

The ban’s extension is being hailed by health advocates who say it is another milestone for tobacco control.

”By banning smoking in pubs and nightclubs, Thailand has once again shown its leadership in tobacco control in the international community, following the examples of Ireland, Uruguay, the UK, France and others,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.

”Hopefully, in the near future, all open-air restaurants in Thailand will be 100% smoke free,” she added.

Health advocates said the new law would protect both patrons and workers in bars and clubs from the effects of second-hand smoke, which studies have shown can cause asthma, strokes and even heart attacks.

They said it would also help smokers quit the habit more easily.

Chonticha Putharak, a 21-year-old non-smoker who used to work in a bar, said she developed breathing difficulties and her eyes would also hurt when she was there.

”The law sounds good to me because I have an allergy,” she said.

Chai Jeam-mornrat, a 33-year-old fashion designer who smokes almost a packet of cigarettes a night when visiting his favourite bars at weekends, said the new law is good as it would discourage him from smoking.

”I like to smoke when drinking alcohol. Being forced to go out of a club just to smoke outside could make me choose to not smoke to avoid the inconvenience,” he said.

However, many are still doubtful about whether the law will be effectively enforced.

One bar worker said that bar owners may ignore the law and bribe police into turning a blind eye so that things could continue as before.

Karn Yaempetch, 33, who once co-owned the Original Sin club in the Chatuchak area agreed that it could be a problem.

”Now it all depends on how effective the law enforcement will be,” he said.

”Law enforcement in this countryrarely works.

”I think a voluntary measure with proper education on tobacco’s impact on health would be more effective than the smoking ban.”

The health ministry said bar and restaurant owners can relax, at least for now, because authorities won’t begin fining the law breakers until June.

”Although the ban takes effect on Feb 11, we will focus more on educating people and issuing warnings rather than fining wrongdoers until May 31,” said Seri Hongyok, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Office.

The ministry is prepared to advise businesses on how to comply with the new rules, and will distribute copies of the regulations by the end of February, Mr Seri said.

”If there is any breach of the law, our authorities will consider them on a case-by-case basis to ensure fair treatment,” he said

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