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Turkish Smokers Face Tough Legislation

January 12, 2008 04:19 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Turkey is pushing through one of the world’s strictest bans on public smoking. A nation famed for strong tobacco is the latest of several European countries to stop people lighting up in public spaces.

30-Second Summary

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What Turkish Daily News writer Izgi Gungor called “one of two or three key components of Turkish social life” may be on its way out. On Jan. 3, the Turkish parliament passed what must rank as one of the world’s most stringent smoking bans.

Conceived by members of the ruling AK Parti government, the law forbids smoking in any enclosed public space, including bars, nightclubs, shopping centers and taxi cabs. The new regulations extend the anti-smoking laws of 1997, which prohibit smoking on public buses, planes and in educational and health care institutions.

Local reactions to the law have ranged from cheers to trepidation to scoffing. Smoking is arguably part of Turkey’s cultural fabric. Around 40 percent of Turks aged 15 and over and 11 percent of those aged 7 to 11 smoke regularly.

Past moves to reduce public smoking have been met with defiance. Nurses in public hospitals have been seen smoking while on their rounds, and mothers lighting up under no-smoking signs is a common sight around Istanbul, writes the Turkish Daily News.

Ankara University public health professor Recep Akdur said of the new legislation, “The law aims to raise the sensitivity of smokers toward the harms of smoking on both themselves and the people around them.”

AK Parti member of parliament Mehmet Tuncak echoed this sentiment. Set to speak against the ban on the parliament floor, he changed his tune when he learned that a relative was suffering from a smoking-related disease.

Critics say that an Islamist motivation lies behind the new law. Ankara pub manager Timucin Gursan told the Turkish Daily News, “I think the ban is an indirect prohibition posed by the government to reduce alcohol consumption in the country.”

Headline Links: Ankara passes smoking ban

Background: Europe clears the air

Historical Context: America’s quest to kick the habit

Opinion & Analysis: Going cold Turkey

Reference Material: Smoking bans around the world

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