Turks are gearing up to join the club of countries banning smoking inside bars, cafes and restaurants.
Turkey’s prime minister has compared cigarettes to terrorism. That may be harsh but, from midnight on Sunday, those who flout the law could face a fine of 32 euros. The government is keen to cut the number of smoking-related deaths, estimated to be 100,000 each year. With smokers making up around 30 percent of the population, including nearly one in two men, the aim is to reduce the total number to around 20 percent. However, for many cafe and bar owners already hit by the economic crisis, the prospect of going cold turkey is unwelcome. “When people come here to relax for a coffee and cigarette or water pipe, and we say ‘you can’t smoke here,’ they will leave and never come back, or we will get into trouble for letting them smoke. In the end, they won’t be able to relax and we will have to shut down,” one cafe owner said. Even so, the measure seems to have popular support with some arguing the ban could even drum up more business for establishments. “Even if it is late for this ban to start, it is very good for me and people like myself. We were being destroyed in the places where you were allowed to smoke inside, and now I will be very comfortable in every place I go,” said one cafe customer. The ban also targets waterpipe cafes, an ancient tradition which has enjoyed a revival among Turks and tourists in the last decade.