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Thailand Smoking Ban Goes Into Effect

The new smoking ban in Thailand bars and restaurants is in effect and from what I have observed the law is being treated like any other law in Thailand. What I mean is, some establishments have already set up smoking areas, others say you have to smoke outside the restaurant or bar, and others are ignoring the law altogether. The reason for ignoring the ban could be that it will not really be enforced for a couple of months. Instead of stiff fines being issued, there will be warnings and education until the end of May, 2008. But, then, the fines will be steep. If enforced, smokers can be fined 2,000 Baht (approximately $62 US dollars) and venue owners will be fined up to 20,000 Baht (over $600 US dollars).

This will force the bar and restaurant owners to enforce the law on their property. If the ban just penalized smokers, the establishment owners would completely ignore it. This is nothing really new. Thailand has banned smoking in hospitals, government buildings, and train stations for a few years now. This is just an extension of an already existing law.

We have a similar law in Hawaii. It is a little more stringent in that we cannot smoke within 50 feet of the door of the establishment. The law also provides fines for smokers and bar and restaurant owners. As a smoker, I was a bit peeved initially at the law, but as time has gone by, it is really no big deal. If I have to step outside to smoke it is no big deal. I am currently visiting Khon Kaen, Thailand and go out almost nightly. I haven’t been to any bars but I have visited quite a few restaurants. One of my favorites, La Mai, has set up a smoking area near the restrooms. Smile restaurant allowed me to smoke at the table. And, Bu-Sa-Ba restaurant has a small, covered smoking area in the rear of the restaurant.

So, between now and May 31, ask your waiter or waitress if it is alright to smoke. If they have a smoking area set up, please use it. If you have to go outside to smoke, like at Kit'z Café, then just sit at the table and have your cigarette. I am not sure how the major tourist areas, Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket, are going to respond or what the impact on tourism will be. I would guess that starting on June 1, 2008, there will be a crackdown to show people that the government is serious about the ban. So, if you are planning to visit the Land of Smiles, and you smoke cigarettes, make sure to ask if it is OK to smoke before you light up. Otherwise, you may have to pay dearly.


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