Tobacco use among adults: new report launched

During an official visit to Turkey, Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, launched the latest report on tobacco use among adults in the WHO European Region. The report covers the first nationally representative household survey that enables countries to collect data on adult tobacco use and key tobacco control measures using standardized methods. Results from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) assist countries in formulating, tracking and implementing effective tobacco control interventions, and allow intercountry comparisons.

Turkey’s participation in GATS was a milestone event. Turkey was the first of all 14 participating countries globally to complete the fieldwork. Key findings from GATS show that Turkey faces a serious tobacco epidemic: nearly 16 million of the country’s adults (12 million men and 4 million women) are smokers. Nevertheless, the report also shows that over half the adult smokers want to quit and 45% have tried to do so.

In addition, control policies that include banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship have been successfully implemented in Turkey. Only 7% of adults are exposed to tobacco industry advertising. This is one of the lowest rates in the world. At the same time, the report highlights areas for improvement. For example, more than half (58.9%) of daily smokers took up the habit before the age of 18, the legal age for smoking; men comprised a larger part of this group (62.5%) than women (48.9%).

In addition, at the time the survey was made in November 2008, the exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) in public places was high, with more than half of men and women exposed to SHS in restaurants. This reinforced the need for the new legislation requiring 100% smoke-free public places, which came into force in 2009. This initiative, begun by the national Government, must now be enforced by municipalities and other agencies at the local level.

Prime Minister recognized for making public places in Turkey 100% smoke-free

In addition to being the first of the countries involved in GATS globally to complete the fieldwork, Turkey has made remarkable progress in tobacco control in recent years. The Prime Minister, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, received the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award for Contribution to Global Tobacco Control from Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, for his strong and continuous leadership. Under his leadership, Turkey has become one of the leaders in tobacco control not only in the WHO European Region but also globally.

The latest achievements are the law requiring 100% smoke-free public places in 2009 and the use of pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages in 2010. With these steps, Turkey has joined other countries in the Region in banning smoking and in requiring pictorial warnings. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Turkey has shown great commitment and already taken bold steps in combating tobacco. The launch of the GATS report has the potential to further improve efforts to prevent and control tobacco use in the country.