ANKARA — TheMinistry of Health is planning to implement new measures against rising addiction to hookahs (water pipes), which are regarded as being damaging to health as cigarette smoking.
Under the new regulations, tables where hookah is being served must be two meters apart and the ceiling a minimum of six meters high. Thus, exposure to secondhand can be minimized.
Hookahs will also feature warning labels with pictures similar to those on cigarette packs to indicate its effects on health.
The ministry also launched a series of public service announcements (PSA) to raise awareness against the dangers hookah smoking poses to one's health.
Launched this week, PSAs have the message "Hookah kills." The PSAs counter the perception that hookahs do not have nicotine and therefore are not hazardous.
A study conducted by Turkish universities revealed that hookah smoke is more dangerous than cigarette smoke and aromas added to the hookah to make it more appealing caused emission of a thicker, more lasting smoke.
Hookah cafe owners installed folding tents outside their establishments after the government imposed an indoor smoking ban. These tents will be regarded as a "ceiling" under the new regulations.
Ömer Tontuş, a Health Ministry official, said Turkey will be awarded for its effective measures against smoking on May 31 after the country was selected as being the most successful in terms of tobacco control in the world.
A list published to mark the sixth European Conference on Tobacco or Health puts Turkey in fifth place among 34 countries for adopting the most effective measures against smoking in Europe.
A report accompanying the list notes that Turkey has introduced comprehensive legislation against smoking with no exceptions in public places and banned the designation of smoking rooms or areas. However, the report adds that Turkey "experienced some enforcement problems in bars and tea houses." These problems led to Turkey falling from the fourth spot in 2012 to fifth-place in 2013.
Turkey launched a smoking ban in 2009 that effectively prohibited the smoking of cigarettes and hookahs in all enclosed public places, including bars, restaurants, cafes, buses, taxis, trains as well as outdoor stadiums.
The country has planned more regulations in its fight against smoking, a widely popular habit among Turks.
An obligatory non-smoking section in outdoor areas of cafes and restaurants, a part of the action plan, has already been imposed.
Smoking in outdoor public areas such as playgrounds and courtyards of mosques is also banned.
To discourage smoking, Turkey also banned the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to buyers under the age of 18. The World Health Organization released findings which showed that the extent of smoking in Turkey significantly decreased in 2013 thanks to the ban and anti-smoking campaigns.