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Author Topic: Turkish Law for the prevention and control of damages done by tobacco products  (Read 6263 times)

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Turkish law to stub out smoking
Turkey is about to break with its smoky past and introduce a law that bans lighting up in public buildings and at work places and threatens offenders with fines of up to 250,000 lira (Dh727,000).

But the question is: will anyone take note?

The “law for the prevention and control of damages done by tobacco products”, which was passed by parliament in January and comes into force on May 19, bans smoking in public buildings and private companies as well as in facilities used for education, sport, social activities or cultural events. Public transport will also have to be smoke-free, the law said; even taxi drivers will have to stop smoking in their cars.

Open-air facilities, such as sport stadiums or concert arenas as well as old people’s homes and prisons, can designate smoking areas. Bars, restaurants and tea-houses have been granted a grace period but will have to be smoke-free by July 19 next year.

Many Turks will struggle with the new law. Roughly 23 million of the country’s 70 million are smokers, said Oguz Kilinc, a lung specialist at the Medical Faculty of the University of 9th September in the western Turkish city of Izmir, and a leading campaigner against smoking. “Fifty per cent of men and 30 per cent of women are smokers,” he said.

Compared with developed countries, the number of smokers in Turkey is high, Mr Kilinc said. “In America, the number of smokers has fallen by 30 per cent in 20 years. In Turkey, it has risen by 80 per cent.” About 100,000 people in the country die of smoking-related illnesses every year, he said.

“If the necessary precautions are not taken, this figure will rise to 250,000 in the next 20 years.”

Health warnings have so far failed to curb the Turkish passion for cigarettes. Kazim Caliskan, the head of the Regulatory Committee for the Tobacco, Tobacco Products and Alcoholic Beverages Market, told local media last month that Turks smoke about 15 million packets a day. Even 55 per cent of doctors and 60 per cent of teachers light up regularly, health officials said.

The new law will mark a change with the past, said Ubeyd Korbey, president of Warriors against Cigarettes, a pressure group that helped shape the new law.

“This is like a revolution,” Mr Korbey said. “I have been fighting 14 years for this.”

Mr Korbey estimated it will take about two years for the new law to be implemented everywhere in the country. “Right now, hardly anybody knows about it,” he said.

Mr Kilinc at University of 9th September also hailed the introduction of the law as the start of a new era. “It is the most important law for the health of our people,” he said.

Apart from forbidding smoking in public buildings all around the country, the new law also bans advertisement and promotion of cigarettes. It will become illegal to sell single cigarettes, a step that is aimed primarily at cigarette sales around schools.

People caught smoking in places where it is banned can be fined 50 lira, while littering streets with cigarette stubs or empty cigarette packets will result in a 20 lira fine. If cigarette companies give cigarettes away in promotion campaigns or sell cigarettes outside designated stores, they can be fined up to 250,000 lira.

Mr Korbey said the fines were tough by Turkish standards. “We know that there have been problems in enforcing laws” in other areas, he said. “That’s why the fines are so high.”

Turkey will also underline its European ambition with the smoking ban, Mr Korbey said. “If we are to join the EU, we will have to introduce laws like that anyway,” he said.

Efforts to enforce the smoking ban in public buildings are expected to be supported by leaders of the government and the army. Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, are known to be strict non-smokers.

Mr Erdogan banned smoking in his office building as early as 2003 and told a meeting last year that “the fight against cigarettes is as important as the fight against terrorism”.

Gen Yasar Buyukanit, the army’s chief of staff and one of the most prominent smokers in Turkey, said he would heed the new regulations. In a much-publicised episode, Mr Buyukanit had to leave the British defence ministry building to have a puff during a visit to London in January.

Mr Buyukanit praised the British ban on smoking, and said: “One has to obey the rules. If we [in Turkey] introduce them, we will follow them in the same way. We will smoke outside.”

Signals like that will help society to accept the new law, campaigners said. “That is very, very important,” Mr Kilinc said.

Still, enforcing the cigarette ban will be difficult in a country where a recent survey by parliament revealed that even 15.6 per cent of secondary school pupils in grades six, seven and eight are smokers. Existing non-smoking rules, such as the ones on city buses, are often ignored. Even as parliament was passing the new law in January, some deputies were thinking about ways around the new regulations.

“We will adapt,” Deniz Bolukbasi, a leading member of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, said at the time. “I’m not thinking of giving up smoking. I will find a way.”

But such supporters of the law as Mr Korbey said that smoking habits in Turkey have changed already and that the new law will help to change them further. “When I started to campaign [against smoking] in 1994, everybody said I was crazy,” Mr Korbey said. “Back then, people even smoked in hospitals and schools. That is no longer so.”

By: http://www.thenational.ae/article/20080513/FOREIGN/627317912/1013/NEWS&Profile=1013
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