A parliamentary committee approved amendments to health laws that provides major momentum for Turkey’s fight for tobacco control.
Amendments, one of the most comprehensive regulations after a landmark smoking ban in 2009, impose a ban on use or promotion of tobacco products on TV, TV series, films, music videos, films screened in cinemas and theater plays as well as on social media and other internet venues. The sale of tobacco products in facilities where health and education services are offered, such as universities, will also be banned.
Another revolutionary amendment is plain packaging. Instead of colorful packs deemed to encourage smoking by critics, cigarettes will come in packs with anti-smoking messages and messages indicating what smoking does to human health will cover 85 percent of the pack. All packs will be of standard size and will not have the logo of the company or type of cigarettes. Only a small space will be allocated on packs for placement of the brand. Violating the rules will be punishable with fines.
Smoking has been one of the habits most associated with Turks for decades and even created the expression: “To smoke like a Turk.” In 2009, Turkey banned smoking in all indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars, cafes and similar establishments, and one year later the ban was extended to smoking in various sites such as stadiums, mosque courtyards and hospitals. Then-prime minister and incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a staunch teetotaler, is largely credited for the effective implementation of the ban that significantly limited space for smokers. Apart from the ban, the country imposed higher taxes on cigarettes and provided free medicine and treatment for smokers.
Figures indicate that after the smoking ban in restaurants, bars, cafes, stadiums, hospitals and similar establishments, the prevalence of smokers decreased. Increased taxes on cigarettes and free medical treatment for smokers aided a decline in the habit. Still, authorities are determined to stamp out smoking, which still prevails among the young and kills more than 100,000 people every year due to diseases linked to smoking. The smoking rate was 31.6 percent in 2016, the latest year with available data, a decline from 32.5 percent in 2014.