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New Laws in Turkey, France and Germany Show Smoke-Free Movement Is Spreading Globally

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 04, 2008

Washington, D.C. — It is great news for global health that 2008 has started with accelerated efforts around the world to enact strong smoke-free air laws that protect all workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. Already in 2008, Turkey’s parliament has passed a strong smoke-free law that will apply to enclosed public places, including restaurants, bars and teahouses; France has fully implemented its smoke-free law to include bars and cafes; and eight more German states have implemented smoke-free laws.

The global smoke-free movement is an appropriate response to the undeniable scientific evidence that secondhand smoke causes serious disease and premature death. It also shows that governments are taking seriously their legal obligations under the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which calls on the more than 150 ratifying countries to adopt effective smoke-free laws. Standards adopted by the treaty’s governing body in 2007 make it clear that only 100 percent smoke-free laws that apply to all indoor workplaces and public places meet the treaty’s requirements.

The new smoke-free laws in Turkey, France and Germany demonstrate the strong support for such laws even in countries where smoking has long been considered part of the culture. Increasingly, governments are recognizing that, to effectively protect the health of their citizens, they must take action against the serious health risks posed by tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Nations and regions that have implemented smoke-free laws have found that such laws are popular with the public, quickly improve health and do not harm business.

We urge all governments to enact 100 percent smoke-free laws that protect the health of their citizens.

Details on smoke-free laws around the world:

  • Effective January 1, 2008, France extended its smoke-free law to bars and cafes.
  • Also on January 1, eight more German states implemented smoke-free laws, for a total of 11 out of 16 states, with more to follow later this year (some laws are not as comprehensive and need strengthening).
  • On January 3, 2008, Turkey’s parliament approved its smoke-free law, which covers all forms of tobacco and will apply to enclosed public places, including restaurants, bars and teahouses, and also extend to stadiums, taxis and trains. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan championed the strong law. The law will take effect four months after it is signed, except for teahouses, bars and restaurants which will have 18 months to comply.
  • Other countries that have implemented strong smoke-free laws include: Bermuda, Bhutan, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. In Australia, Canada and the United States, a growing number of states, provinces and territories have adopted such laws.

More information on secondhand smoke and smoke-free laws:

  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer. Public health authorities worldwide have concluded that secondhand smoke causes serious diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight and serious respiratory conditions.
  • Scientific evidence is also clear that the only effective way to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke is to enact 100 percent smoke-free laws that cover all indoor workplaces and public places, including all restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues. Other approaches, such as designated smoking areas and separate ventilation, do not provide adequate health protection.

There is an urgent need for action to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke around the world. Unless current trends are reversed, tobacco use is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century. Tobacco will claim five million lives worldwide this year, and that number is projected to double by 2020, with 70 percent of these deaths in developing nations. The International Labor Organization estimates that each year about 200,000 workers die because of exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace. Public health experts have concluded that 300 million deaths from tobacco can be prevented in the next 50 years by cutting adult cigarette consumption in half worldwide.