Smoking Tobacco, and Drinking Alcohol in Bangkok and Thailand
If you arrive as a tourist in Bangkok, you may initially be puzzled as to where to find cigarettes or tobacco. The reason is that tobacco wares are not allowed to be displayed in public and no advertising is allowed. Smaller shops will usually sell cigarettes. Most convenient places to buy tobacco are the 7-Eleven convenience stores scattered around Bangkok. The cigarettes are located just behind the counter, but as I mentioned, you will not actually see them displayed and must ask for them.
Image : Can Stock Photo (with permission, copyrighted)
Not quite sure why anyone would want to smoke cigarettes, but for the more serious smokers you will find tobacco wares (cigars, pipe tobacco) at Siam Paragon and Emporium. The shops that sell tobacco are called Bangkok Wine Cellar (they mostly sell wine and spirits). There is one located on the 5th floor (next to the Gourmet Market) at Emporium Shopping Center, and another one (a bit larger, maybe somewhat more choice) in the corridor left of Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon (located at the basement level floor). The pipe tobacco and cigars are not openly visible, so you have to ask to see the wares.
After visiting the store at Siam Paragon, we just recently realized there was another cigar shop on the second floor (take the stairs inside the Bangkok Wine Market, off Gourmet Market). This after we noticed its website by good fortune. The tobacco shop on the second floor is called [email protected] Paragon, and sells a good selection of Havana cigars. There are no pipes, pipe tobacco or accessories on sale. The cigars are not openly priced, which is a bit of a turn-off. Branches of the same company that runs [email protected] Paragon can be found at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Cigar Shop at J.W. Marriott Hotel (Phloenchit road), at Pattaya Mariott Resort and Spa. Its cigars can also be enjoyed at bars at the Conrad Hotel and Grand Hyatt Erawan.
A good alternative is a cigar shop located at Peninsula Plaza. this low-rise shopping plaza is located in between high-class hotels on Rajadamri road, just a few hundred meters from the Chitlom BTS station. This tobaccionist was earlier located at Dusit Thani Hotel, which is now being destroyed to make place for an newer edition.
Image : Can Stock Photo (with permission, copyrighted)
There is a reasonable selection of pipe tobacco and smoking accessories. Savinelli pipes are on sale. We do not know about the prices of the Cuban cigars or the pipes on sale, but the pipe tobacco here is expensive, just like at Siam Paragon or Emporium. Also here (since beginning 2020) it is not possible to see the tobacco wares through the window or door, everything is covered up, but the name clearly will indicate (we do not recall it now) that it is a tobacco shop (located on the mezzanine floor on the right side of the building).
Most five star hotels actually will have a small shop where you can also buy tobacco wares. I noticed that these shops are allowed to display tobacco for sale.
Smoking is prohibited in restaurants and public places in Bangkok. Smoking is allowed outside buildings. For example, if you are a smoker and visit a Starbucks for your morning coffee, you may want to select one that has an outdoors section (although nowadays it seems Starbucks itself seems to disallow smoking even in its outdoor areas).
When you visited bars before, well you would have seen the reason why smoking has been banned in most places, and gets such a bad press. The bars were filled with smoke, and any visit may have had you coughing for the next few days. In our opinion, if smokers would have been more self-restraining, things would not have developed as far as they have now, with smokers being treated almost as bad as plain criminals.
As of 2008, there is a smoking ban in airconditioned bars and night clubs. Up to then, bars and nightlife entertainment venues had been exempted. Most bars and pubs implement the new anti-smoking rules, but not all.
Drinking and Buying Alcohol
Drinking alcohol is still allowed in Thailand. However, you can not buy alcohol at all times of day. Shops like supermarkets and 7-Elevens are not allowed to sell alcohol between 2.00-5.00 P.M. and after midnight. At 11 A.M. sales are permitted again. As far as we know, you can drink alcohol all day though in restaurants and bars.
On some days (religious and national holidays, election days) alcohol sales are banned altogether, and drinks can not be served even in restaurants and bars (which often close on these days anyway).
Wines are invariably priced high. Even table wines that would be sold at less than 100 baht a bottle in Europe, cost 500 baht and upwards.
Stronger drinks like whisk(e)y, gin, vodka are a better deal. A bottle of good whisky such as Grant's or Ballantines can be had at around 800-900 baht a bottle (about 25-30 US $).
Most supermarkets will sell wines and spirits. Beers and mostly local brand alcohol is available at 7-Elevens (prices are about 20% higher than at supermarkets though). By the way, Thai brandy (sometimes called whisky or rum) is actually quite tasty and very cheap.
Drinking beer or other alcoholic beverages in bars and pubs in Thailand is not cheap. Often you will need to pay in excess of 100 baht for just a standard local beer. This does not apply for smaller non-airconditioned bars and streetside restaurants. Nightlife venues charge around 150 baht for a drink.
Drunk driving is a major problem in Thailand, and thousands of people are killed each year because of it. Most victims (and perpetrators) are 'low-class' motorcycle drivers, and little is done to enforce existing laws, and/or to improve drivers' conduct. Invariably, each year around New Year and with Songkran (the Thai New Year) there will be temporary campaigns to limit the number of road deaths. Unfortunately, the value of life in Thailand is rather low, and therefore little is done to preserve it.
The laws to curb drunk driving are actually there, more effort is necessary to implement them, together with an educational campaign to suggest to the young Thai males that driving drunk is not cool or virile.