14.5 million adults, 252,000 children smoke in Turkey: Data

14.5 million adults, 252,000 children smoke in Turkey: Data

Mesude Erşan – ISTANBUL
14.5 million adults, 252,000 children smoke in Turkey: Data

More people in Turkey are smoking despite recent government-initiated regulations and campaigns discouraging the unhealthy habit.

New estimates from the Tobacco Atlas, a leading resource on tobacco use and its impact on world health, indicate that about 14.5 million adults and 252,000 children in Turkey use tobacco every day.

About 83,100 people die from tobacco-caused diseases in Turkey each year, according to the Tobacco Atlas, an initiative supported by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation.

About 31 percent of deaths among Turkish men can be attributed to tobacco-related diseases. Turkish men’s rate of death from smoking is the second highest in the world after North Korea. Among Turkish women, tobacco-caused diseases account for 12 percent of all deaths.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca mentioned the alarming rate of smoking-related deaths during a meeting last week.

“We’ll enter a period in which we will fight heavily [against smoking] by revising the definitions of indoor spaces and outdoor spaces regarding implementation of the smoking ban,’’ he said.

Experts say that decreasing tobacco use requires a three-legged approach: Helping smokers to quit, protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke and preventing people from taking up smoking.

A board member of the “Yes to Health” Association (“Sağlığa Evet” in Turkish) said in an interview with Hürriyet that all three legs of the fight against tobacco use are “connected” and need the support of both government-led initiatives and non-governmental organizations.

The proper implementation of the laws can decrease the consumption of tobacco, said Dr. Füsun Yıldız, a professor at Kyrenia University in Turkish Cyprus.

“The tobacco industry is currently in a transformation to continue making profits and therefore introduces new products into the market, one of which is electronic cigarettes,” she said.

The prominent doctor said although firms advertise electronic cigarettes as healthier and less risky, they still pose a danger to people’s health.

“Another dangerous product that is presented to those trying to quit smoking is water pipe [‘nargile’ in Turkish], which is as dangerous as cigarettes themselves,” Yıldız said. She called on authorities to take steps to restrict the use of water pipes.

Turkey has 521 smoking cessation clinics. A total of 2.5 million medical examinations have been conducted at the clinics in 2019. The clinics have distributed smoking-cessation medications to about 1 million people since 2010, according to authorities.

The Turkish Thoracic Association says cigarette vapor contains more than 4,000 poisonous chemicals causing cancer. Nicotine in cigarettes can be as addictive as hard drugs like heroin and cocaine, accordıng to the association.

Dr. Oğuz Kılınç, a professor at Dokuz Eylül University in the western province of İzmir, says without professional help, the chance of quitting smoking is only 3 to 5 percent. But once smokers get professional help, their success rate increases to 30 percent.

“Scientifically, there are only two methods that helps one quit smoking,” Kılınç said. “The first is cognitive behavioral therapies, and the other one is medications [prescribed by the Health Ministry] to help one get rid of their addiction by dealing with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. No other method except these are effective.”