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July 17, 2009

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Turkey to enforce smoking ban

Turkey's government is setting up a 4,500-strong team to help enforce an upcoming no-smoking ban in bars, restaurants and coffee houses in this country of heavy smokers, a Health Ministry official said yesterday.

On Sunday, a year-old ban on indoor public smoking will be widened to include bars, restaurants, cafes and hookah bars. Owners protest that it will bring ruin to businesses already suffering from the effects of an economic crisis. The ban already covers offices, public transport and shopping malls.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government - keen to reduce smoking rates and the effects of second-hand smoke on people's health - has dismissed protests and calls for the ban to be postponed.

A Health Ministry official said the force would carry out surprise checks on bars, restaurants and coffee houses where men traditionally pass time lighting up, drinking tea or coffee and playing backgammon and card games.

He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules barring civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

Around 1,000 inspectors will monitor bars, cafes and restaurants in Turkey's three largest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, while the rest will be scattered around other parts of the country. The official said the number of inspectors could be increased in the future.

Patrons breaking the ban will be fined 69 Turkish lira (US$45), while owners who do not enforce the ban can be fined 560 Turkish lira to 5,600 Turkish Lira.

More than 100,000 people die annually in Turkey from smoking-related illnesses, according to official figures.


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