Turkey world leader in implementing WHO anti-tobacco measures, report says

Published 27.07.2019 19:13
Updated 28.07.2019 16:14
This file photo taken on February 28, 2017 shows a man putting out his cigarette in an ashtray at a railway station in Shanghai (AFP Photo)
This file photo taken on February 28, 2017 shows a man putting out his cigarette in an ashtray at a railway station in Shanghai (AFP Photo)

Turkey is the leading country in terms of implementing the anti-tobacco measures suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO), a report published by the global body said Saturday.

The new WHO report shows many countries are still not adequately implementing policies, including helping people quit tobacco.

Turkey has successfully implemented the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the report said, urging other countries to follow the country's example.

"Since the last report, only one country, Brazil, has joined Turkey in putting all MPOWER measures in place at their most comprehensive level, and there are only a handful of other countries that have more than two measures in place at best practice levels. Even in countries where best-practice measures exist, much can be done to strengthen compliance and ensure full impact," the annual report says.

MPOWER is a set of "cost-effective and high-impact" measures suggested by the WHO to reduce demand for tobacco. They are: "Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies," "Protect people from tobacco smoke," "Offer help to quit tobacco use," "Warn about the dangers of tobacco," "Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship" and "Raise taxes on tobacco."

Around 8 million people lose their lives as a result of health complications associated with smoking, the report said, noting that countries need to boost preventative measures and increase the prices of tobacco products.

Turkey is one of the leaders in fighting tobacco addiction with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan leading by example. He has a habit of talking smokers into quitting and once they agree, taking their cigarette packs.

In September 2016, he convinced then-Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov to quit smoking at the NATO Summit in Poland's capital.

Turkey introduced a nationwide indoor smoking ban in 2009 in restaurants, bars and similar establishments and gradually extended its reach to other enclosed spaces over the years. Authorities have stepped up inspections against violations of the smoking ban in the recent year. Some 1,500 teams inspected businesses and public buildings every day around the country against violations 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.

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.

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, tobacco product packages will no longer bear oversized logos, symbols or signs belonging to brands save for fine print for each. Instead, cigarette packs will be largely covered by health warnings about the dangers of smoking.

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