Turkey – a model of success in tobacco control

“Today, people in Turkey breathe more easily than they did just a few years ago,” said Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Margaret Chan, marking World No Tobacco Day, 31 May, in Istanbul, Turkey.

She went on to point out that in the year 2000, 20% of patients hospitalized in Turkey had a smoking-induced disease and that such diseases accounted for more than half of all hospital deaths. More than half of all Turkish men were daily smokers.

By 2008, however, Turkey benefited from some of the most stringent tobacco control measures in the world making indoor spaces 100% smoke free. The impact on health has been clear with a 20% drop in the smoking related hospital admissions and smoking prevalence down to 27%.

Dr Chan noted that this was a particularly remarkable achievement given Turkey’s strong associations with tobacco. Its world famous oriental tobacco dates back to the Ottoman Empire and for 400 years tobacco was an important part of Turkey’s political and cultural identity, as well as a major driver of the economy.

Referring to the advances as “true ‘Turkish delight’”, Dr Chan summed up with the words: “If it can work in a country like Turkey, with such a long history and entrenched culture of tobacco production and use, it can work anywhere. Thank you, Turkey, for being such a shining and inspiring model of success.”

The Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was presented with the WHO Director-General’s World No Tobacco Day special recognition certificate.

Turkey is the only country in the world to have received three WHO awards for achievements in tobacco control.