Stepping up its crackdown on the illegal cigarette trade, Turkey imposed a ban on the sale of hand-rolled cigarettes starting Wednesday. The ban, which originated from a bill passed by Parliament last month, aims to stop the sale of hand-rolled cigarettes in tobacco shops. Sellers will be sentenced to prison terms ranging between three to six years.
Hiking cigarette prices has driven smokers to tobacco shops, which recently flourished across the country. These shops normally sell tobacco by kilos or grams and separately sell empty rolls. However, authorities say smokers are increasingly turning to the sale of hand-rolled cigarettes, whose prices are far cheaper than regular cigarettes. Yet, it is difficult to trace the contents of hand-rolled cigarettes which are sold in packs without official brands.
Turkey earns billions of Turkish liras every year from a special tax imposed on cigarettes, but counterfeit, smuggled cigarettes inflict losses on those earnings. According to media reports, Turkey is now home to more than 25,000 tobacco shops whose earnings mostly depend on the sale of hand-rolled cigarettes and raw tobacco. Illegal online sales of hand-rolled cigarettes also proliferated in recent years, complicating efforts to track down illegal sales.
Studies show hand-rolled cigarettes illegally sold in tobacco shops contain a high level of cadmium and lead and other materials harmful to the health.
Yüksel Denli, deputy head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Department of Tobacco and Alcohol, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the new regulations aim to prevent a yearly tax loss of about TL 9.5 billion ($1.4 billion).
Turkey has taken stricter measures against smoking in recent years. The percentage of smokers in the country is 28%, according to official figures.