Addressing a symposium on international anti-narcotics policies, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan compared drug addiction to terrorism and he said the most efficient way to fight both was "dealing with the mosquitos and draining the swamp."
"It is no coincidence that the biggest income for terrorist organizations comes from the drug trade, smuggling alcohol and tobacco products," the president said at the event in Istanbul organized by the Green Crescent, Turkey's leading teetotaler society.
He added that fight against addictive substances was also "a fight to drain the income of terrorist groups."
Turkey, a transit country for drug smuggling which also fights against drug use, especially among youth, stepped up anti-narcotics efforts in recent years after it launched an action plan for the war on drugs four years ago. It both increased the number of rehabilitation centers for recovering addicts and focused more on small-time dealers with police's newly formed "narco teams," which operate around schools and other places where young people hang out.
From January to October this year, more than 19,000 people were arrested in more than 122,000 anti-narcotics operations across the country. The numbers are higher compared to the same period last year. The operations are also credited with a drop in the number of drug-related deaths, which fell to 228 between January and September this year, a 75 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2017.
Erdoğan also lashed out at tobacco companies that sought to invest in Turkey.
"They came and are still coming here, promising investments. They said they would invest in $500 million or $1 billion. We offer them alternatives, we tell them to export it instead of selling in Turkey but their aim is different. They want the Turkish youth to be addicted. We will not allow it," Erdoğan, a staunch teetotaler, said.
The president has been behind a massive anti-smoking campaign since his tenure as prime minister and ushered in a new era without smoking in public places with a widespread ban on tobacco use in restaurants, cafes and similar venues in 2009.