Nick Papantonis

Multimedia Journalist

Houston, we have a (smoking) problem

               If there is one fault I can give Turkey above all else, it’s that it’s going to have serious health issues in the future.

               Cigarettes are among the deadliest items one can legally buy. They cause all sorts of diseases- including lung cancer- and play a role in the development of countless others. The United States has figured this out, and while they’re not completely outlawed (hello, lobbyists and tax revenue), they’re incredibly expensive to buy and advertising is banned anywhere a kid could be influenced by it.

               Turkey and the rest of Europe know the health risks and the statistics as well, but cigarettes are incredibly cheap here. Most cost just a few dollars per pack, and as a result the culture is ingrained with a smoking habit. More than half of Turks aged 18-49 smoke daily, and it’s noticeable while walking around Istanbul. The smell of cigarettes and secondhand smoke is everywhere.

               You cannot legally smoke anywhere indoors, as well as gardens of mosques and hospitals. Most cafes get around this by having a large covered outdoor space (sometimes nearly all of the available seating), complete with heaters for the winter season. And smoking is blurred out on TV (although it’s quite distracting and very obvious).

               One thing that Turkey has done better than the US: large visual warnings on cigarette cartons. However, they aren’t very graphic- a woman holding her hands, the image of a fetus, teeth- images designed to be recognized but don’t bring awareness to the actual risks.

               Turkey can kill two birds with one stone if it were to take action: tax the hell out of cigarettes, making them more expensive than many are able to afford (and crack down on the sale of illegal cigarettes as well), which will help pay for an ever-expanding transportation network in Istanbul.


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