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Turkey: Tobacco Control Law Tightened

(July 25, 2012) On July 4, 2012, the Turkish Parliament (the Grand National Assembly, Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi, or TBMM), passed amendments to the Law on the Prevention and Control of Hazards of Tobacco Products (Tütün Ürünlerinin Zararlarinin Önlenmesi ve Kontrolü Hakkinda Kanun, Law No. 4207). One amendment bans brand stretching – “the application of cigarette brand names, logos or other distinctive elements of cigarette brands and their ads to nontobacco products” – so that no such elements can in future be used on “clothes, perfume bottles, alcoholic beverage bottles or coffee packages.” (Ilyas Koç Indirect Cigarette Ads Prohibited with New Amendments to Anti-Smoking Law, TODAY'S ZAMAN (July 13, 2012).) Implementing regulations will be formulated by the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Agency (TAPDK) in three months, after receipt of an opinion on the subject from the Ministry of Health. (Id.)

The amendments also stipulate that:

  • smoking products will no longer be sold to young persons under the age of 18, with the ban including tobacco, tobacco-free herbal cigarettes as well as herbal water pipes and electronic cigarettes;
  • picture-based health warnings must be placed on water-pipe bottles, on both sides of the bottle and covering 65% of its surface. Picture-based warnings have been required on cigarette packages in the country since May 1, 2010;
  • cigarette packages must be plain, with all [non-warning] text, pictures, logos, figures, or colors that might consumers' attention removed, in order to discourage the public from smoking; and
  • municipal police are newly authorized to impose penalties on persons who violate the ban on smoking in public venues, which has been in effect since 2009. (Id.; Law No. 4207 (as amended) [in Turkish], E.MEVZUAT [a Turkish legislative information system database].)

The new Law also imposes a TL50 (about US$28) fine on persons “who discard cigarette butts, packages, the nargile [water pipe, or hookah] mouthpiece or similar waste in public areas,” unless the individual removes the waste immediately. (YesilayWelcomes New Regulations Concerning Nargile, TODAY'S ZAMAN (July 5, 2012).)

Turkey is reportedly the first country in the world to adopt anti-water pipe smoking legislation and the second, after Australia, to change to plain cigarette packaging. (Koc, supra.)

E-cigarettes simulate tobacco smoking by vaporizing nicotine or non-nicotine solutions through a battery-operated heating element. Some of the devices “look like real cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Others look like pens or USB memory devices.” However, there is no smoke or tobacco involved. (Emily Sohn, How Safe Are E-Cigarettes? (Jan. 26, 2011); see also Christian Nordqvist, What Are E-Cigarettes (Electronic Cigarettes)?, MEDICAL NEWS TODAY (Feb. 15, 2011).)

Background on Tobacco Control Measures

Law No. 4207 was passed on November 7, 1996, and came partly into force after publication in Official Gazette No. 22829 of November 26, 1996, and fully into force a year later. (Nazmi Bilir et al., TOBACCO CONTROL IN TURKEY 1 (2009).)

Turkey's Minister of Health signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on April 28, 2004; it was ratified by the Parliament and has been in effect since November 30, 2004. Subsequently, the government launched the National Strategy for Tobacco Control (2008–2012) on December 12, 2007, which was prepared in line with the FCTC (art. 8 and Guidelines) and MPOWER policies and interventions. (Id. at 1-2) MPOWER is a set of measures put forward by the WHO to help countries implement effective interventions to reduce tobacco demand. (MPOWER, WHO website (last visited July 19, 2012).)

On January 3, 2008, the Parliament adopted a comprehensive tobacco control law that completely banned smoking in public places, “including all educational, health, commercial, social, cultural, sports and entertainment facilities and their corridors,” as well as tobacco company advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. (Koc, supra; Bilir, supra, at 2.) That law, No. 5727, which was fully implemented as of July 19, 2009, imposes a TL69 fine (about US$38) for smoking in a prohibited space and a fine of up to TL5,600 (about US$3,103) for operators of such areas who allow the banned activity to take place. (Koc, supra; for a text in English of Law No. 5727, which amends Law No. 4207, see Annex 1: Bill Amending the Law on Prevention of Hazards of Tobacco Products, in Bilir, supra, at 75.)

According to the U.S. non-governmental organization the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 7% of Turkish youth aged 13-15 smoke cigarettes and 3% use other tobacco products; 31% of the general population smoke “and rates of tobacco use are rising”; nearly half of the country's men, and 15% of the women, smoke. The group also contends that nargile smoking is increasing in popularity. (Turkey, CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS (Feb. 2012); see also Risk Factors, Tobacco, WHO Global Health Observatory Data Repository (last visited July 19, 2012) [click on “World Health Statistics” in left column, choose “Tobacco” under “Risk Factors,” then scroll down country list to “Turkey”].)