As Turkey marks a decade of a revolutionary smoking ban, Health Ministry figures show more than 2.5 million people sought to quit smoking through clinics set up for smoking addicts.
Clinics opened in the early 2000s, increased in number in recent years, especially after the 2009 indoors smoking ban. Nicotine addicts sought help in 502 clinics across the country. However, no concrete figures are available on how many people permanently quit smoking after receiving assistance at clinics. Clinics also offer free medication to smokers to kick the habit.
Smoking, among the leading causes of deaths in the world, kills more than 7 million people every year through the diseases it causes. About 1.8 million people are diagnosed with smoking-related lung cancer every year.
Turkey introduced a nationwide indoor smoking ban in 2009 at restaurants, bars and similar establishments and gradually extended its reach to other enclosed spaces over the years. Still, smoking is prevalent in the nation whose habit saw the coining of the infamous phrase "smoking like a Turk." Another source of concern is passive smoking which experts say causes diseases, like leukemia and liver cancer as well as increases the risk of lung cancer.
Turkish authorities have stepped up inspections against the violation of the smoking ban in the recent year. Some 1,500 teams of inspectors inspected businesses and public buildings every day around the country against the violation of the smoking ban. The Health Ministry also set up a hotline for citizens to report violations while an app called "Green Detector" allows users to immediately notify authorities against violations. Since 2009, teams carried out more than 22.8 million inspections.
Apart from clinics, the Health Ministry also offers advice to those trying to quit, through a hotline set up in 2010. The hotline receives about 5,000 calls every day from smokers. A ministry website also gives tips on how to quit smoking and allows users to calculate how much money they can save by not buying cigarettes.
Figures indicate that after the smoking ban, the prevalence of smokers decreased. Increased taxes on cigarettes and free medical treatment for smokers also aided a decline in the habit. Still, authorities are determined to stamp out smoking, which still prevails among the young and kills more than 100,000 people every year due to diseases linked to smoking. The smoking rate was 31.6 percent in 2016, according to the latest available data, a decline from 32.5 percent in 2014. Turkey also introduced a new regulation earlier this year for plain packaging to deter would-be smokers in particular. Under the regulation, which will be fully in force next year, packages of tobacco products will no longer bear the oversized logos, symbols or signs belonging to the brands save for fine print for each. Instead, cigarette packs will be largely covered by health warnings about the dangers of smoking.