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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Turkey bans smoking

8th January 2008

Legislators in Turkey, which has one of the highest smoking rates on the planet, have voted in favour of a smoking ban in enclosed public places.


Campaigners in the country, where 40% of the adult population smokes, say one in five deaths in Turkey is related to smoking, which is seen as an integral part of life by some there, as normal as eating and sleeping.

Opponents say there is little chance a ban will succeed in the country, which is home to 25 million smokers, and where current smoking restrictions are widely ignored.

But efforts to promote Westernisation look set to take on additional momentum when the ban comes into effect in 18 months' time.

The new ban will outlaw smoking in bars, cafes and restaurants as well as taxis, trains and outdoor stadiums.

There are signs that a change may be in the air, however. The municipal authorities in Istanbul's well-heeled Sisli district have already outlawed smoking in restaurants, shops and Internet cafes.

Campaigners say such a ban would have been unthinkable only 5-10 years ago.

But recent smoking bans in European countries have had an impact, amid a campaign to join the European Union by Turkey's leaders. Bans have recently come into force in other bastions of tobacco consumption, like Spain and the Ukraine.

The UK, Sweden and Montenegro have also passed laws banning smoking in public places.

Parliamentary health expert Cevdet Erdol, a cardiologist, said it was important for Turkey to have health standards on a par with those in Europe and the United States.

Cigarettes represent a serious health concern for the country of 71 million, which used to be one of the world's leading tobacco producers, giving rise to the the expression in some European countries "to smoke like a Turk".

Some 60% of men, 20% of women, and 11.7% of schoolchildren smoke in Turkey, compared with an average smoking rate of 30% in most of Europe. Only Greece, with a smoking rate of 45%, stands out from this trend.

Smoking has a long history in Turkey, dating back hundreds of years into the Ottoman empire, where coffeehouses and "hookah"-style pipes were a key part of social life.

The anti-smoking campaign has been helped by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, who is an active campaigner against tobacco, and recently chastised his own bodyguards for smelling of smoke.

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