History up in smoke as Turkey extends smoking restrictions

The expression “smoke like a Turk” seems destined for the rubbish bin of history after Turkey introduced Sunday some of the toughest anti-smoking legislation in Europe.

cigarettes

Smoking has been banned from all closed public areas, bars, cafes and restaurants, and even extends to patrons sitting outside cafes. Anyone caught puffing away in a non-smoking area faces an on-the-spot 45-euro fine, while cafe owners face penalties of up to 2,500 euros.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an avid anti-smoker, has instructed the country’s governors to rigorously enforce the ban. He has even called for officials who fail to do so to be punished. The new law is being seen as the final nail in the coffin for one of the country’s most ancient traditions.

Turkey has one of the highest rates of smoking in the world, and the legislation is expected to cause troubles for cafes, bars and restaurants in cities like Istanbul, where the hospitality industry is bracing for a hit to profits.

Cafe owner Suleymain Aktas told Deutsche Welle his business was already suffering due to the economic crisis, and that the smoking ban would add salt to the wound.

“Sure, this ban will affect us both work-wise and in our lifestyle. We won’t be able to live the way we did before. As for our cafe, we will have to find new ways to take some economic measures like sacking workers,” he said.

History up in smoke

tobacco

Turkish cafes are well known for the clouds of flavored smoke wafting through the air from water pipes, or nargile in Turkish. It is a tradition that goes back centuries, but as of Sunday this could become a thing of the past.

Though despite criticism of the new legislation by industry groups and smokers, there are many Turks who see this as a chance to turn a new, healthier corner. According to opinion polls an overwhelming majority of Turks are in favor of tougher anti-smoking laws.

“I think it is good for me because I don’t smoke, because when I sit here and drink I don’t like this smoke. So it is going to be a good thing,” said Volcan, a regular at the Keyif cafe in Istanbul.

But another cafe patron, Oguz, said as he savored what he admits could be one of his last nargile at Keyif that he was angered by the smoking ban.

“I like smoking the nargile. I like the feeling of friendship that goes with it,” he said. “Perhaps nargile is more harmful but it has an ambience and you smoke while chatting. I don’t find it logical that they ban smoking in nargile cafes, because people come here by choice.”

Widespread support

smoking

In nearby Taksim square, in the heart of Istanbul, there is support to be found for the ban and little sympathy for nargile smokers.

“Nargile, it might be part of the tradition, but it has become hyped in the last five or six years; as though there was no nargile culture before it was created,” said one local. “It has attracted many, many people to smoke even more. So I am perfectly happy that nargile cafes will close.”

Another passerby said: “I think it is good. In many places people smoke too many cheap cigarettes to our bad health. I have waited a long time for this law.”

For centuries, Turkey – which is also a major cheap tobacco producer – has prided itself on its smoking traditions. But here tradition can pass with remarkable speed. Earlier restrictions on smoking on coaches and in shopping malls met with little resistance, and even though there have been a few small protests against the new restrictions, mainly by cafe owners, the government remains determined to enforce them. It seems the days of smoky Turkish cafes are numbered.

source: http://www.dw-world.de

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