News & Current Affairs

July 19, 2009

Turkey smoke ban extends to bars

Turkey smoke ban extends to bars

A man hangs a no smoking sign in Istanbul, Turkey (16 July 2009)

Local authority staff will impose fines on those breaking the ban

Turkey has extended an existing ban on smoking in public places to all bars, cafes and restaurants.

The ban has come into force despite opposition from some bar and cafe owners who fear losing business.

It comes after the government banned smoking from most enclosed public spaces in May last year in an effort to improve the nation’s health.

Turkey has more than 20 million smokers but polls suggest 95% of people support the ban.

“We are working to protect our future, to save our youth,” said Health Minister Recep Akdag.

Anyone caught lighting up in a designated smoke-free area faces a fine of 69 liras ($45:£28) while bar owners who fail to enforce the ban could be fined from 560 liras for a first offence up to 5,600 liras.

Local authorities have hired thousands of extra staff to track down smokers and impose the fines.

Many people in Istanbul said they thought the ban was a good move.

“We were being destroyed in the places where you were allowed to smoke inside,” said Istanbul cafe patron Hanife Demirm.

“I was choosing the non-smoking places automatically, but after the ban is extended I will not need to be selective. I’ll be very comfortable in every place that I go,” he told the AP news agency.

‘Unnecessary stress’

A man smoking in a cafe in Istanbul, Turkey (17 July 2009)

Turkey is one of the world’s heaviest smoking countries

But the BBC’s David O’Byrne in Istanbul says many Turkish people see the ban as an erosion of their democratic rights and have called for bars to be able to apply for a smoking licence.

Some cafe owners have also said they were concerned the ban would drive away customers.

“They will simply leave and never come back, or we would get in trouble for letting them smoke,” said Istanbul cafe owner Selahattin Nar.

“Then both we and they would be filled with unnecessary stresses. In the end they will not be able to relax and we will have to shut down.”

But Mr Akdag said there was no reason for cafe and bar owners to be worried about a drop in trade.

“The public supports a smoke-free environment and the only ones to suffer will be the cigarette producers and sellers,” he said.

A no smoking rule has been in place for the past 15 months in government offices, workplaces, shopping malls, schools and hospitals.

All forms of public transport, including trains, taxis and ferries, are also affected but there are exemptions for special zones in psychiatric hospitals and prisons.

August 7, 2008

Istanbul site ‘hit by grenades’

Istanbul site ‘hit by grenades’

Map showing Turkey

Several hand grenades have been thrown at a municipal building in Istanbul, according to local reports.

A local mayor told semi-official news agency Anatolia that three grenades had exploded. At least one person was hurt.

Reports say two men fled the scene on a motorbike. The attack took place in Uskudar on the Asian side of the city.

Last month, double bombings blamed on Kurdish separatists killed 17 people in the city. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) denied any role in the attacks.

A month ago, three police officers and three gunmen were killed in an attack on the entrance to the US consulate in Istanbul. Turkish police said they were investigating possible links to al-Qaeda.

Political tensions

Police are searching for the two suspects who are thought to have fled on a motorbike after Thursday’s explosions.

A funeral ceremony for victims of Istanbul's 28 July bombing

A double bombing in Istanbul last month claimed the lives of 17 people

Uskudar mayor Mehmet Cakir told Anatolia that one blast had occurred in a rubbish truck in the car park of the municipal building and two more in a neighbouring cemetery.

NTV Television said the wounded person suffered a minor injury to the leg.

The latest incident comes at a time of increased political tensions in Turkey.

Last week, Turkey’s Constitutional Court narrowly voted not to close down the governing AK Party, accused of undermining the country’s secular system.

Meanwhile, an investigation continues into a shadowy ultra-nationalist group, known as Ergenekon, which is suspected of plotting to overthrow the government.

Dozens of people have been arrested and charged in connection with the inquiry, including two retired high-ranking military generals.

Turkey has seen armed attacks from a variety of groups in recent years.

The most deadly was in November 2003, when 58 people were killed by Islamist militants in suicide bombings outside two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul.

The Kurdish rebels of the PKK have also been blamed for several attacks, including a car bombing that killed six people in the city of Diyarbakir in January.

Leftist and ultra-nationalist groups have also been accused of violence.

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