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No retreat from smoking ban, says health minister

Health Minister Recep Akdağ has reaffirmed that Turkey will not backtrack on its complete ban on the use of tobacco products at indoor establishments, which comes into force on Sunday. Akdağ stressed that no extra time would be given to shop owners to make the necessary adjustments to their business premises. “We are not happy with the idea of allowing extra time to cafes, restaurants or tourism agencies to make the adjustments to their premises that the law requires. Some European Union member countries did allow extra time to businesses before enforcing the full smoking ban, but later had great difficulty in carrying it out,” he stated.

With the amendment made to Law 4207 on the Prevention of the Harmful Effects of Tobacco Products, smoking will not be permitted in indoor sections of cafes, bars, restaurants and the like as of July 19. The operators of such businesses will be responsible for monitoring their clients’ compliance with the law and reporting any violation by telephoning the nearest police station or by calling 184 to reach the Ministry of Health’s Communication Center (SABİM).Any violation on the part of operators and clients will be penalized by fines of TL 560 to 5600 and TL 69, respectively.

Meanwhile, Bahattin Köksal, head of the anti-tobacco organization Healthy Life Association (SAĞLIK-DER), suggested that July 19, when the full ban on tobacco products in public places goes into effect, should be celebrated annually as “Clear Air Day.”

Speaking in Ankara yesterday at a conference on the tobacco ban at the Ankara Mayor’s Office, Köksal said their association aimed to educate people about the dangers of tobacco use.

Toker Ergüder from the World Health Organization (WHO) also attended the conference, stating that Turkey is among the countries with the highest tobacco-consumption rates. “This law will make Turkey one of the few countries that have banned smoking in all closed areas at a national level,” he said, hailing the law as “revolutionary.”

He said the WHO and civil society organizations have been working together well ahead of the ban. “We believe that this cooperation is very important for us to fight the global tobacco problem that threatens the lives of millions of women, men and children across the globe. Cooperation among governments, international organizations and civil society, as has happened in Turkey, is much needed to fight this problem, which is completely preventable.”

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