Turkey - smoking ban starting July 19th will be enforced - these guys are serious..


July 16, 2009 - On Sunday July 19, 2009 a year-old ban on indoor public smoking will be widened to include bars, restaurants, and even smoky, hazy village coffeehouses and hookah bars, despite protests from owners who fear it will bring ruin to businesses already suffering from the effects of an economic crisis. The ban already covers offices, public transport and shopping malls.

Turkey's government is setting up a 4,500-strong team to help enforce an upcoming no-smoking ban in bars, restaurants and coffeehouses in this country of heavy smokers, a Health Ministry official said Thursday, July 16th.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government is keen to reduce smoking rates and the effects of second-hand smoke on people's health. He insists the battle against cigarette usage is as crucial as the "struggle against terrorism." Prime Minister Erdogan is now the driving force behind the next phase of a popular ban taking effect on July 19, which aims to curb the habit in a country where 22 million people, including around half the adult male population, smoke. (Smoke like a Turk?’ Not after looming ban But unlike in 17th-century Istanbul, violators won't be executed, MSNNBC - Reuters, 7/16/2009)

A Health Ministry official said the force would carry out surprise checks on bars, restaurants and coffeehouses where men traditionally pass time lighting up, drinking tea or coffee and playing backgammon and card games. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules barring civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

Around 1,000 inspectors will be assigned to monitor bars, cafes and restaurants in Turkey's three largest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, while the rest will be scattered around other parts of the country. The official said the number of inspectors could be increased in the future.

Patrons breaking the ban will be fined 69 Turkish Lira ($45; euro32), while owners who do not enforce the ban could be fined between 560 and 5,600 Turkish Lira ($366-$3,660; euro260-euro2,600).

More than 100,000 people die annually in Turkey from smoking-related illnesses, according to official figures. "To smoke like a Turk" is a common expression in many European countries to describe someone who smokes a lot.

Enforcing smoking bans has proven difficult in the country where, according to Yesilay, an organization devoted to fighting alcohol and tobacco consumption, around 40 percent of Turks over the age of 15 are smokers, consuming around 17 million packs a day.

Davut Kaya, the owner of a smoke-filled coffeehouse in Ankara's Dikmen neighborhood, says he fears for his business. "Ninety percent of my customers are smokers. They come here to get rid of their stress by smoking and playing cards. I cannot see them going outdoors to smoke every 10 minutes. They will stop coming here," he said.

Reference: 4,500-person team to enforce Turkish smoking ban, Suzan Fraser, Associated Press - Ankara, 7/16/2009.

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