Turkey introduces smoking ban
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- A law extending a smoking ban in Turkey to most enclosed areas -- including taxis, ferries and shopping malls -- came into effect Monday in the nicotine-addicted nation.
As of midnight, outdoor smoking was also banned in locations such as stadiums and playgrounds. A ban on lighting up in bars, restaurants and coffeehouses will be implemented next year.
Smoking was already barred on buses and airplanes and in larger offices. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government expanded the ban to most enclosed places as part of an attempt to reduce smoking rates in the country and the effects of second-hand smoke.
Around 40 percent of Turks over the age of 15 are smokers, consuming around 17 million packs a day, according to Yesilay, an organization devoted to fighting alcohol, drug and tobacco abuse.
The government says around 160,000 people die annually in Turkey from smoking-related ailments.
The law, passed by Parliament in March, calls for a fine of 50 Turkish lira ($40) for people who light up in smoke-free areas.
But enforcing smoking bans has in the past been difficult and it is not unusual to see people lighting up next to no-smoking signs in public places.
Taxi driver Huseyin Erdogan, who is not related to the prime minister, says he does not think the bans will help him get off cigarettes.
"I don't know how much of a deterrent these laws will be," he said. "I cannot quit smoking, I'll only quit when I go to my grave. I have to smoke."
According to the World Health Organization, nearly two-thirds of the world's smokers live in 10 countries led by China and India and followed by Indonesia, Russia, the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Germany and Turkey.
Turkey is also among the world's main tobacco growers along with China, India, the U.S. and Brazil, and one of the top exporters. Several major cigarette producers blend Turkish tobacco in their products.
"To smoke like a Turk" is a common expression in many European countries to describe someone who smokes a lot, and hookah smoking -- a legacy of the Ottoman era -- has experienced a revival with several hookah cafes opening up in major Turkish cities over the past decade.