Turkey says not to backtrack on smoking ban
Turkey's health minister said Wednesday government had no plans to soften country's smoking ban.
In July 2009, Turkey launched a new phase of smoking ban, extending the prohibition to all indoor areas including cafes, bars and restaurants.
At his meeting with World Health Organization (WHO) official Armando Peruga, Recep Akdag was asked whether or not government planned to retreat from the ban.
Akdag said, "Turkish people are happy with this ban. There will be no amendments to the law as long as people stand by the Health Ministry." Restaurant owners have been complaining about the ban and they had demands from the government to soften it. However, WHO official Peruga said that the number of smokers declined after public smoking ban and that restaurants increased their profits by 5 percent since the ban, despite economic crisis.
Peruga, the WHO Tobacco-Free Initiative's Acting Coordinator for National Capacity Building, said Turkey was a model country for tobacco control, adding that he saw media reports claiming that Spanish model was the best. On the contrary, he said, Spanish authorities had intention to copy Turkey's implementations. Spanish government plans to extend smoking ban to bars and enclosed public spaces, a move which will bring the country in line with other Western European countries, and end its reputation as one of the last smokers' paradise in the region.
I got lucky on this one. I decided to quit smoking about a year before all the new regulations came into effect. Turks have a passion for bending rules or the police always had a tendency to look the other way so I was rather doubtful about the success of the no smoking laws in Turkey. I was especially "disenchanted" by the Health ministry's encouragement of citizens to report violators. Basically to become narcs, as anybody in my high school would have said. That kind of thing, in my opinion, smacks of the Gestapo storm-trooper tactics. All in all, it has, however, been fairly- surprisingly- effective.
While I was in New York, I watched the real-life application of no-smoking laws. The atmosphere in the bar was, admittedly fresher, but I always felt a brief pang of pity for the small cluster of smokers, huddled against the wind and rain outside the door. It never lasted very long, though. I did kind of wonder what they had to talk about. The weather? Anti-smoking laws?
To all the smokers out there, looking for sympathy, you can, at least, take comfort in the fact that summers are long and so far, at least, the smoking ban applies to indoor establishments.
One time, I was in an outdoor cafe in Cesme, and I was smoking as a few of us waited for the bus to take us back to Izmir. There was an American woman with her Turkish boyfriend and suddenly, she began to look around anxiously. For some reason, I thought she needed to find the restroom. I asked her if she needed any help- I mean, she appeared quite anxious and flustered. She turns and says, "No. It's your cigarette!" My cigarette smoke? I was about 8 feet away.. in the open.. and menthol too. Thank God, I didn't fart.. I might well have killed the poor woman. I really did wonder how such a tight-assed person survived in Turkey on a day to day basis. This level of intolerance is not something the government should encourage I think.
Nowadays, my only objection to the Turkish no-smoking laws is the silly blurring of smoking in films on television. Worse, I have seen them use crazy smiley faces or something more distracting than blurs. Is it really necessary?