Turkey's parliament passed Thursday a bill banning smoking in bars and restaurants as part of a series of stringent restrictions on nicotine addicts in a country where 60 percent of males smoke.
The law, which will take effect four months after it is approved by the president, allows for an 18-month transition period for bars, restaurants and cafes to prepare themselves for the ban.
AdvertisementSmoking is already banned in Turkey on buses, airplanes and larger public institutions, but enforcement has been uneven.
The new law was passed with strong support from the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself an ardent anti-smoking campaigner.
It bans smoking in all government buildings, work places and private institutions such as restaurants, bars, cafes, including even village coffee-houses-houses, as well as shopping malls, schools, taxis, stadiums and hospitals.
The open-air spaces of schools would also be off-limits for smokers, who would only be allowed to light up in smoking rooms in hotels and special areas in psychiatric hospitals, and asylums for the elderly and prisons.
Organisers of outdoor sports and cultural events such as matches and concerts will also be allowed to set up special areas for smokers.
The law imposes heavy fines on violators.
Private institutions breaching the ban would first be sent a written warning and then fined up to 5,000 Turkish lira (4,300 dollars, 2,900 euros).
Citizens who light up despite the ban, meanwhile, would face a fine of 50 Turkish lira.
The law stipulates fines of up to 250,000 Turkish lira for companies that advertise tobacco, make discounts on cigarette prices or give them away as promotion.
About 110,000 people die of smoking-related illnesses in Turkey each year, according to official figures.
About 60 percent of the male and 20 percent of the female population in this country of more than 70 million are smokers --- one of the highest rates in Europe.
Enforcing the existing ban in Turkey has proved a tough job for the authorities: the restrictions are often ignored and the sight of people smoking under no-smoking signs is a common place.