Turkey successful in anti-smoking efforts; fails with alcohol, drugs

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    20 Ağustos 2010
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    The head of the teetotalers’ group the Turkish Green Crescent (Yeşilay), Professor M. İhsan Karaman, has stated that although Turkey has been conducting successful efforts against tobacco use, it has not been as successful in combating alcohol and drugs.
    This week marks the Green Crescent Week in Turkey. The Turkish Green Crescent was established on March 5, 1920, in order to fight the spread of alcoholism, smoking and drug use. The first week of March is observed by the school system in Turkey as an occasion to teach the dangers of alcohol, cigarette and drug abuse to the individual, family and society in general.
    Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Yeşilay Chairman Karaman evaluated the efficiency of Turkish policies against the abuse of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.
    Noting that tobacco use is an important and preventable public health problem, Karaman said each year over 6 million people die from diseases stemming from tobacco use around the globe. “In our country, this figure is 100,000 people per year and 23 percent of deaths in the country result from tobacco-related diseases in the country. Around the world, 1.2 billion people over the age of 15 smoke, while this number is 16 million in Turkey,” he added.
    Highlighting the success of the Turkish government in combating smoking in recent years, Karaman stated that Turkey has become one of the leading countries in the world in fighting the use of tobacco thanks to the effective anti-smoking policies it has adopted in recent years.
    Karaman stated the National Tobacco Control Program and Action Plan, which was announced publicly for the first time by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in December 2007, has played a great role in the recent success of Turkey in fighting cigarette consumption.
    The action plan was introduced by Erdoğan on Dec. 13, 2007, in İstanbul. “Combating the use of tobacco products has become as important as our counterterrorism fight, which is ever-present on our agenda, because tobacco products are literally murdering our future generations,” Erdoğan said at the time.
    Karaman stated that with Law No. 5727 coming into effect in 2008, the consumption of tobacco products was prohibited in public transportation vehicles, including taxis, trains, trams, boats and airplanes. He added that the smoking ban was expanded and smoking in indoor areas was also prohibited on July 19, 2009, with the slogan “100 percent smoke-free air space in Turkey.”
    In a landmark move in 2009, Turkey banned smoking in indoor sections of cafés, bars, restaurants and the like with an amendment made to Law No. 4207 on the prevention of tobacco usage and the harmful effects of tobacco use. Since its implementation, cigarette consumption rates in Turkey have started to fall.
    Karaman further stated that the positive impacts of the indoor smoking ban introduced in an attempt to prevent the negative effects of second-hand smoking on public health have been observed, adding that Turkey is the first and only country which has implemented the “MPOWER” criteria suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) against tobacco addiction. MPOWER stands for “Monitor” tobacco use, “Protect” people from tobacco smoke, “Offer” help to quit tobacco use, “Warn” about the dangers of tobacco, “Enforce” bans on tobacco advertising promotion and “Raise” taxes on tobacco products.
    “Thanks to the recent anti-smoking initiatives, the rate of smoking among people over the age of 15 decreased from 33.4 percent in 2006 to 27.1 percent in 2012. Since 2008, some 2.2 million people have quit smoking across the country,” Karaman noted.
    Turkey not as successful in anti-alcohol efforts
    Karaman, who sincerely praises the Turkish government’s anti-smoking policies, is not as optimistic about the activities being carried out against the consumption of alcohol in the country. “When it comes to Turkey’s initiatives to reduce the consumption rates of alcoholic drinks in the country, we cannot say it has done well in these initiatives as no outstanding decrease has yet been observed in the consumption rates of alcohol. Alcohol is one of the direct reasons for death or various life-threatening diseases. Although alcohol use damages the organs and some systems in the human body, there is no legal obstacle to alcohol ads being published in newspapers in our country. When comparing Turkey to overseas examples, Turkey’s anti-alcohol policies are not sufficient,” Karaman noted.
    Listing some suggestions for the government in an effort to fight a more successful battle against alcohol in the country, Karaman stated that the government has first of all to ban direct or indirect advertising of alcohol in public. “The government should also bring in new high taxes for alcoholic drinks. The high taxes for alcohol will most probably yield positive results, just as they did for smoking. If the prices of alcoholic drinks are increased, the consumption of alcohol in public may decrease. The negative effects of alcohol on the human body should be mentioned on the bottles of alcoholic drinks. The possible diseases that alcohol causes, such as cirrhosis and cancer, should be listed on the bottles, as this would likely discourage people from drinking alcohol to some degree,” Karaman stated.
    Pointing to the number of traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers, Karaman stated that “zero tolerance” should be shown towards drunk drivers, adding that checks for drunk drivers should be intensified and new deterrent sanctions introduced. Karaman also suggested that the density of alcohol outlets be reduced and that such outlets should not be placed close to schools or sports and cultural centers which are often visited by young children.
    Regarding the efforts to prevent drug use, Karaman said that although there have been lots of regulations and sanctions adopted against drug use and drug trafficking activities in the country so far, Turkey has to introduce much more inclusive preventive measures and legislation addressing personal, social, economic and environmental risk factors.
    Also giving some suggestions for combating substance use, Karaman said: “The awareness of children should be raised with educational courses starting in elementary school. Additional measures should also be taken to prevent the release of illegal drug substances onto the market.”

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