Monday, January 25, 2010

Where There Isn't Smoke


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?



  1. True to Turkish form, cops have found a way to make money out of this by telling restaurant owners one day that it's okay for patrons to smoke in covered outdoor areas, then the next day coming around to slap everyone with fines because people are smoking in covered outdoor areas.

    I'm suspicious of the restaurant statistics. Patronage is next to nothing and I don't know how the ones in my area are staying in business. It because of the crisis, though, and not the smoking because this started in summer.

    I'm trying to quit, but failing because of my weak will and my husband smoking on the balcony. Kudos to you for doing it when smoking was still allowed everywhere.

  2. A smoking ban was enacted in the province of Buenos Aires last year, but I find that enforcement of the ban here is lax at best. :( It seems Argentines like to bend the rules as much as Turks do.

    I agree that it's a bit much to censor movies that show people smoking, especially the smiley face bit.

  3. I hate to see blurry areas in movies on TV. Makes me angry, that is too much.

  4. @stranger
    Don't beat yourself up over not being able to quit. Cigarettes are one of the most addictive substances they've ever made. It is easy to say there is something wrong with you when you can't quit smoking but there are some things you MUST do if you are serious. 
    You have to stop being in an environment where smoking is available. At least, for a couple of months. That is surely the whole point of making it illegal to smoke in public places. It cannot be because they care of the bar staff. They don't care about their eardrums! (Hearing loss is cheaper than cancer, maybe?) 
    My problem was smoking and drinking beer as a social event in my life on a Friday night. Everybody around me smoked there and it was too easy to light up with them in one big happy family of blue smoke. If your husband smokes on the balcony.. and if he absolutely will not join you in quitting, buy heavy curtains. :)
    Show him how much it will save him in a year if both of you stop. This works better for men for some reason. It is REALLY a lot of money too.
    Also, I really believe that something I was taking (not for quitting actually) helped me reduce the craving. I thought I was weak too but I managed to stop COLD TURKEY one day and never went back.. although I did talk about smoking a lot, maybe obsessively, for a week or two.

    Remembering also that you so much to live for and, let's face it, the pleasure that smoking gives you is pretty superficial and momentary and hardly compares with watching your child grow up day by day.


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