Smokers in Turkey - a country infamous for its smoking habit and hence the idiom 'to smoke like a Turk' – have not remained indifferent to intense efforts by the Health Ministry to curb smoking as nearly two million people have applied to public-funded programs in polyclinics since 2010.
The total number of smokers that have applied to public clinics as of the end of Jan. 2017 was 1,891,170 people, according to the data revealed by the Health Ministry. Starting with 35,000 people in 2009, the number of applicants peaked in 2016 with 378,612 people. Last January, 18,311 people applied to clinics to quit smoking.
In the last four years, around 1,400 doctors were trained in programs aimed to curb smoking. Applicants to the programs in clinics were also provided with anti-smoking medication free of charge.
Along with the clinics, a smoking cessation hotline was launched in 2010 to encourage smokers in their fight against their addiction. The "ALO 171" hotline currently operates 24/7 with 175 agents, responding to an average of 6,000 to 7,000 calls a day.
A new software devised in 2015 integrated the database of health clinics, the hotline and the program's website, allowing the agents to call the applicants of the program a total of six times at the end of the first week, the sixth month and the first year after they stop smoking.
Accordingly, 47.01 percent of the applicants reached by ALO 171 agents stated that they had quit smoking at the end of the first week. This ratio was 23.87 percent at the end of the first month, 15.16 percent at the end of the third year, 10.18 percent at the end of the sixth month and 6.69 percent at the end of the first year that the applicants applied to the program.Psychosocial and motivational support services provided through the clinics and the hotline were also provided on the website, which was visited by 107,585 people as of Dec. 31, 2016.
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