World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey, which had long been a nation of smokers and passive smokers, began a smoke-free life on July 19 of last year.
Despite the fact that a great number of people, including business owners and tobacco producers, reacted strongly to the smoking ban, as they believed that they would face considerable financial loss, many recent studies have revealed that a growing number of people are currently pleased with the smoking ban.
However, recent efforts by the Council of State to relax the smoking ban have concerned many people, especially health experts, as they regard Turkey's indoor smoking ban as a revolutionary step.
The Council of State, nearly one month ago, asked the Constitutional Court to relax the smoking ban for kahvehanes, traditional Turkish teahouses where men gather to smoke and have tea, claiming that the ban violates personal freedoms and makes it more difficult for businesses to survive, Cihan News Agency said.
The first phase of the law banning smoking went into effect on May 19, 2008. It prohibited smoking tobacco products in state buildings, including hallways and corridors; in all enclosed areas of educational, health, production, commercial, social, cultural and sports facilities; and in public transportation vehicles, including taxis, buses, ferries and airplanes. As of July 19, 2009, the law went into full effect, with restaurants, coffeehouses, cafeterias and bars also designated as smoke-free areas.
National Cigarette and Health Committee (SSUK) Chairwoman Elif Dagli said that nearly all Turkish people are currently pleased with Turkey's indoor smoking ban except for some business owners and tobacco producers, even though the ban drew strong reactions from some people shortly before and after it was first implemented. Stating that attempts to abolish the smoking ban are in the interest of commerce, Dağlı emphasized that the right of protection of people's health is superior to commercial interests.
Dagli also noted that health is a fundamental right of every individual. “As a result of many studies, it is obvious that Turkey's indoor smoking ban has been preventing people from smoking and being exposed to cigarette smoke. To illustrate, a recent study revealed that the number of people going to hospitals due to smoking-related diseases has decreased 20 percent following the smoking ban,” Dagli said, underlining that despite its numerous benefits for the public, there are many attempts to relax the smoking ban. Noting that if the ban is abolished for kahvehanes, it will encourage attempts to abolish the ban completely, Dagli added that every government should try to protect its citizens' health.
Associate Professor Sefa Saygili, chief psychiatrist at Vakıf Gureba Hospital in İstanbul's Fatih district, said the smoking ban is one of the most beneficial laws being implemented in Turkey. Stating that there have been no significant complaints so far throughout the country regarding the smoking ban, Saygili noted that he believes that the Constitutional Court will reject the effort by the Council of State to relax the smoking ban for kahvehanes. Saygili, who is also deputy chairman of the Green Crescent Society (Yesilay), added that some studies show that nearly 92 percent of Turkey's population approves of the smoking ban.
Finance Ministry's data show number of kahvehanes increase following smoking ban
A growing number of people have expressed concern that places of entertainment such as bars, restaurants, coffeehouses and kahvehanes throughout the country could face the risk of closing their doors permanently due to Turkey's indoor smoking ban. However, according to data from the Ministry of Finance, the number of kahvehanes has proliferated, increasing to 480,640 from 476,840, after the implementation of the smoking ban.
Speaking at a press conference held by the SSUK in Ankara on Wednesday, Professor Nazmi Bilir, the head of the public health department at Ankara's Hacettepe University, noted that the smoking ban is not targeting the right to engage in commerce, but trying to help people's health.
Dilek Aslan, a lecturer in Hacettepe University's public health department, who also spoke at the conference, noted that Turkey's indoor smoking ban is also intended to prevent future generations from smoking. “A considerable number of people have lost their lives as a result of smoking. The smoking ban is an opportunity for smokers to quit,” Aslan stated, adding that she believes that the number of people who die due to smoking in Turkey will decrease dramatically in the coming years.