A law banning smoking in public places came into effect on Monday in Turkey -- a country where nearly two-thirds of men smoke.
But media reports said the ban appeared to be having little effect, with television channels showing pictures of supporters still puffing away freely at public events marking a public holiday across the land.
AdvertisementThe law was passed by the Turkish parliament in January, and prohibits lighting up in government offices, workplaces, shopping malls, schools, stadiums and hospitals.
There are exemptions for special zones in psychiatric hospitals, retirement homes and prisons, whilst smokers will be allowed to light up in designated smoking rooms in hotels.
Cafes and restaurants will also benefit from a transition period, with a total ban only applying to them from July 2009, while organisers of sporting events or concerts may provide smoking areas.
Any establishment defying the ban will receive a written warning, followed by a fine of up to 5,000 Turkish liras (2,700 euros, 4,000 dollars).
An individual caught illicitly smoking risks a fine of 50 liras (26 euros, 40 dollars).
Around 60 percent of men and 20 percent of women are smokers in Turkey, which is also an important producer of tobacco, with tobacco-related diseases blamed for a fifth of all deaths.
Smoking is already banned on public transport, and the advertising of tobacco is prohibited.
However, in such a nicotine-addicted country, the law has seldom been rigorously enforced, even though an opinion poll published by the Sabah newspaper showed 85 percent of people in favour of the new ban.
Already some deputies who voted for the law have privately indicated they intend to enjoy a smoke within the parliament building -- despite the ban.
The full extent of compliance with the new legislation will only be apparent on Tuesday when public offices reopen after the holiday for the anniversary of Kemal Ataturk's campaign to free Turkey of occupying powers after World War One.
But experts said it would be extremely difficult to break with old cultural habits.
"Drinking a coffee and smoking a cigarette after a meal is a ritual," Selcuk Candansayar, a professor at Ankara's Gazi medical school, told the NTV television channel.
"It's a tradition that has to be broken."
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