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New Survey Shows Turkey Has Significantly Reduced Smoking, Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 31, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – A report released today by Turkey’s Ministry of Health provides powerful new evidence that proven tobacco control policies – when effectively implemented by governments committed to protecting their citizens’ health – significantly reduce smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. Turkey’s second Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) shows sharp declines in adult smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke between 2008 and 2012, the two years in which the GATS surveys have been conducted. These findings show that Turkey’s exemplary efforts to reduce tobacco use are delivering life-saving results and should spur other countries to follow Turkey’s lead in taking strong action.

According to the survey, the adult smoking rate fell by 13.4 percent – from 31.2 percent (16 million smokers) in 2008 to 27.1 percent (14.8 million smokers) in 2012. Exposure to secondhand smoke fell by 77 percent in restaurants – from 55.9 percent in 2008 to just 12.9 percent in 2012 – with declines also seen in workplaces, public transportation, government buildings and even in homes.

Turkey’s progress is the result of a sustained commitment by the Turkish government to improve public health and save lives by implementing proven measures to reduce tobacco use. In 2009, the country implemented a national smoke-free law that applied to all restaurants, cafes and bars. Turkey has also introduced graphic tobacco warning labels, increased tobacco taxes, conducted strong mass media campaigns and implemented a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. These actions have not only significantly improved public health in Turkey, but also made Turkey a global leader in the fight against tobacco use.

Turkey’s efforts have been supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies through the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, which helps governments and non-governmental organizations in low and middle-income countries to implement proven, cost-effective strategies to reduce tobacco use. The Bloomberg Initiative has provided critical assistance to Turkey and other countries in fighting the world’s number one cause of preventable death.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey is a survey of adult tobacco use and trends conducted in low- and middle-income countries, helping countries track tobacco use rates and the impact of tobacco control measures. Other findings of the 2012 Turkey survey also signal progress:

  • More current smokers – 53 percent in 2012 compared to 46.3 percent in 2008 – thought of quitting because of health warning labels on cigarette packages.

  • Nearly half of all smokers (46 percent) tried to quit in the last month.

  • The real cost of a cigarette pack has increased substantially, which studies show is a highly effective way to reduce smoking.

Tobacco use kills nearly six million people worldwide each year and will kill one billion people this century unless countries take urgent and effective action. Turkey’s results show that tobacco’s devastating toll can be significantly reduced if countries act now. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – the World Health Organization's first public health treaty – obligates countries to implement proven strategies to reduce tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, 100 percent smoke-free laws, large, graphic health warnings, and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships.