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July 20, 2009

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Fewer places for Turkish smokers to puff

TURKEY - a nation of smokers - yesterday extended a ban on indoor public smoking to bars, restaurants, and even to traditionally smoke-filled village coffeehouses.

The ban came into effect despite protests from bar and coffeehouse owners who fear it will ruin businesses that have already been hit hard by the economic crisis.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-oriented government barred smoking in offices, public transport and other public places in May 2008 in an effort to reduce the country's high smoking rates and the effects of secondhand smoke on people's health. Bars, restaurants and cafes were given a grace period that ended at midnight last Saturday.

"The country woke up this morning having carried out a cigarette revolution," said Radikal newspaper yesterday. "Smokeless life has begun," headlined Milliyet newspaper.

Health Minister Recep Akdag said smoking rates have dropped 7 percent since May 2008, when the ban on indoor smoking was introduced. He said more people will give up smoking now that bars, restaurants and cafes are also smoke-free.

The government has dismissed the bar and coffeehouse owners' protests and rejected requests that special smoking rooms be set up to make sure that smokers keep coming.

"There is no reason for (cafe and bar owners) to be worried. The public supports a smoke-free environment and the only ones to suffer will be the cigarette producers and sellers," Akdag told reporters.


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