Syrian children exploited in sale of smuggled cigarettes in Turkey
Shop owners drew attention to the increasing numbers of Syrians that are used by smuggled cigarette networks in the region and say most of them are employed for 20 Turkish Liras daily.Syrian children, who have taken refuge in Turkey after fleeing their home country, are being exploited for the sale of bootlegged cigarettes in southeastern Turkey, a destination full of cigarettes smuggled in from Iraq, Iran and recently from Syria.
Walking around in the main square of the Kızıltepe district of Mardin, one witnesses countless peddlers, mostly Syrian children who are not fluent in Turkish but communicate with locals in Arabic. When we tried to communicate with the children, some other children approached and told us they were not able to speak Turkish.
One Syrian man selling bootlegged cigarettes said his wife was Turkish, adding that they had been forced to flee Turkey from the Ras al-Ayn town in northern Syria due to the civil war.
Shop owners drew attention to the increasing numbers of Syrians that are used by smuggled cigarette networks in the region and say most of them are employed for 20 Turkish Liras daily. Before the turmoil in Syria, Turkish children were used as street peddlers, a shop owner says, admitting most of the retailers in the region also had to sell bootlegged cigarettes.
According to a study conducted by Turkey’s Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority (TAPDK), every one of two cigarettes smoked in southeastern Turkey is smuggled; the ratio reaches 62 percent in Diyarbakır, and 55 percent in Mardin.
Peddlers who sell smuggled cigarettes also sell single cigarettes for 25 kuruş each, so children can easily be marketed to as well.
The cheapest legal cigarette is sold for 5 liras, while bootlegged cigarettes are sold for around 2-3 liras in the region. Prices rise in Western Turkish cities.
Some 40 percent of smuggled cigarettes sold in Turkey are produced in Bulgaria by the Bulgartabac company, according to a report conducted by the European Parliament budget control committee. The report says the cigarettes are first exported to Iraq and then smuggled into Turkey across its southeastern border.
Approximately 80 percent of smuggled cigarettes are brought into Turkey through its eastern and southeastern borders, according to the 2012 report of the directorate of anti-smuggling and organized crime branch of the Turkish police. China and the United Arab Emirates are other countries of origin for the smuggled cigarettes.
Turkey launched an action plan to struggle against tobacco and tobacco products in 2011. The Turkish police seized 99,100,000 smuggled cigarette boxes in 2012.