Turkish Government - makes major move to improve the health of its citizens..

July 18, 2009 -

Turkey will on Sunday, July 19, 2009 introduce a tight ban on smoking in cafes, restaurants and bars, wielding fines for offenders, in a bid to break a national habit blamed for tens of thousands of deaths each year.

"Our primary objective is to reduce the proportion of smokers to 20 percent of the adult population," said Toker Erguder, who runs the World Health Organization's tobacco-control project in Turkey. Erguder is optimistic that the ban will contribute to the changing mentality in Turkey. "Five or ten years ago, people would offer cigarettes to guests. They no longer do that. People also tend not to smoke near children any more," he said. "We are on the eve of a great change."

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."

Official statistics say almost one in three adults smoke in Turkey -- a rate that reaches 48 percent among men -- putting the country in 10th place in tobacco consumption in the world.

Smoking-related illnesses are responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths a year, according to the Turkish Temperance Society.

Non-compliance with the ban will result in a fine of 69 liras (45 US dollars, 32 euros) for smokers while the establishment itself will have to pay 560 liras for a first-time offence and up to 5,600 liras for repeat offences.

Owners of bars and cafes have long been appealing for a delay in the introduction of the ban, especially in the midst of an economic crisis, but the health ministry has refused to budge and drafted in some 5,000 inspectors to make sure it is implemented.

Recent surveys suggest the majority of the public is behind the ban.

Also targeted by the ban are the water-pipe cafes which have sprung up in Tophane on the shore of the Bosphorus after the century-old tradition became fashionable again in recent years. Mehmet Sirkeci, the owner of Cafe Parma, said he has put his hopes in herbal molasses to smoke with a water pipe before wintertime deals a heavy blow to his business.

Reference: Turkey readies for drastic smoking ban, Nicolas Cheviron, The Sydney Morning Herald - AFP, 7/18/2009.

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