Turkish ministries of finance and health work together in tobacco control
On 3 October 2011, the Turkish Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance opened the first meeting on tobacco taxation jointly organized with WHO, with participation of Bloomberg Initiative partners coming from 15 countries all over the world: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Pakistan, Poland, Russian Federation, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam.
The Turkish Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance have joined forces in the fight for increasing tobacco taxation. The ministers have seen the value of working together to enforce tobacco control measures – a cooperation that shows the way forward to other Member States in seeking to reduce tobacco consumption and improve population health.
Tobacco control can be achieved successfully when it is dealt with at the multisectoral level and with a partnership approach. Turkey is a good example of this as the whole government approach was a key cornerstone of success. This approach has been also highlighted in the political declaration of the High Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases in New York adopted last month.
Evidence shows that tobacco taxation is the most effective tobacco control policy in reducing tobacco consumption. Tobacco taxes are still low in most low and middle income countries and increasing them is still a challenge. The Turkish example in tobacco taxation can be used as an example of good practice, in addition to other tobacco control policies implemented by the country.
In Turkey total taxes represent more than 78% of the price of a pack of cigarettes, a very high proportion compared to other countries globally. In addition to a high tax rate, Turkey is among the few countries in the world to implement a very sophisticated monitoring system to reduce tobacco avoidance.
As a result of their joint commitment to tobacco control, both the Minister of Finance Mehmet Simsek and the Minister of Health Professor Recep Akdag, were awarded a certificate of appreciation by the Regional Director of WHO Europe for co-hosting with WHO the Partners' Meeting on Tobacco Taxes and the Training Workshop on Tobacco Taxation in Ankara, Turkey, 26 September – 5 October 2011.