Thailand will ban smokers from lighting up in bars, restaurants and open-air markets across the kingdom in a bid to curb smoking, the public health ministry said Friday.
The ban will take effect on February 11 and smokers violating the regulation will be fined 2,000 baht (60 dollars) with night club and restaurant owners facing a 20,000 baht fine, a health ministry official said.
Thailand already bans smoking at public places such as government buildings, train stations and hospitals.
Hathai Chitanondh, who heads the anti-smoking NGO National Health Foundation, said he would lobby the government to expand the smoking ban to public beaches.
"Thailand is a leading country in this region to aggressively fight against smoking. We have reduced the number of smokers to around 9.4 million" of the 65 million population, Hathai told AFP.
In addition to banning smoking in Bangkok's bars and nightclubs, the new regulation will also prevent people from lighting up in the popular Chatuchak market, the city's biggest outdoor market and a major tourist draw, he said.
Although Thailand was long a holdout for smokers, Pavornwan Koonmongkon, president of the 70,000-member Thai Restaurant Association, said she believed the ban would face little resistance.
"Smokers usually cooperate and respect no-smoking rules. This shouldn't cause any problems. I think it's a sign of the success of the government's campaign to raise public awareness about smoking," she said.