Turkey's new anti-tobacco bill targets visibility, promotion

A draft bill tabled by lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), aims to boost the fight against smoking with new measures to limit the promotion of cigarettes and through new packaging.

The bill, which will be debated in Parliament tomorrow, prohibits the sight of tobacco products everywhere, from TV shows, series, music videos to ads, from films and theater plays to the internet. Sale of tobacco products will also be banned at places that offer health, education, sports and cultural services as well as university campuses. Stores selling cigarettes will be obliged to store them in closed spaces where customers cannot see them. It also calls for a larger space for warning about the harms of smoking to health on cigarette packs and plain packaging for all types of cigarettes, without the logos of the manufacturer.

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. According to figures 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.

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