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Turkey Goes Smoke-Free with Indoor Smoking Ban
Date : 19 July 2009

Turkey went smoke-free Sunday as the government introduced a ban in cafes and restaurants in hopes of breaking the national addiction to nicotine despite the protests of business owners.

Yet Turkey, the world's 10th country in tobacco consumption, said health reasons propelled the ban which was strongly supported by tobacco hater Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and came into effect at midnight as businesses removed ashtrays forcing smokers to go out for a smoke.

After a first warning to customers who want to light up, owners of cafes and restaurants are supposed to refuse serving smokers or call the police if customers insist on smoking on premises.

The ban imposes a fine of 69 liras ($45) for the smoker, and a heavier one of 560 liras ($367) on the business for a first time offence and up to 5,600 liras ($3,670) for repeat offences. Today's ban comes as an extension to a successful May 2008 ban on smoking in workplaces and indoor public spaces that saw a reduction in tobacco consumption by 20 percent and in smokers by seven percent according to Health Minister Recep Akdağ.

Almost one in three adults smoke in Turkey with almost half of Turkish men are regular smokers according to official statistics while the World Health Organization (WHO) reported an annual death rate of 100,000 due to smoking-related illnesses.

"People spend $15 to $20 billion to buy cigarettes each year," Tokat Erguder, who runs the WHO's tobacco-control program in Turkey said commenting on the financial burden of smoking on smokers and the economy. "In addition, the state has an annual expenditure of 3.4 to 4.5 billion dollars" to pay for the treatment of smoking-related illnesses, he added.


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