Erdoğan announces new tobacco taxes, blasts industry

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday announced new taxes on tobacco products as he criticized the tobacco industry for causing addiction among young people.

“We love our citizens who are smokers,’’ Sabah newspaper quoted Erdoğan as saying in a speech marking the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World No Tobacco Day.

“We try to discourage them by increasing cigarette prices, but for some reason they don’t stop. But we’ll still load up on cigarette taxes,’’ he said.

The Turkish president accused the tobacco industry of having “a distorted mindset that strives to get rich at the expense of people's life, health and peace.”

The industry employs propaganda and manipulation as sales methods, Erdoğan added.

“Cartoon characters were used to encourage young people and kids to smoke at their very early age,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan said that to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in the country the government took up series of measures to protect the public health and thus closed the places where tobacco products are widely sold.

During the lockdown period in Turkey all hookah lounges, cafés, entertainment centres, nightclubs and bars were closed.

Erdoğan, who is a fierce opponent of smoking, has long waged anti-smoking campaigns in Turkey, where an estimated 14.5 million adults and 252,000 children use tobacco every day, according to Tobacco Atlas.

“For us, human health is most important. We will continue our sensitivity and determination in this respect in the coming days, too,” Erdoğan said.

Turkey leads the world in taxes levied for cigarettes, which register at up to 87 percent, following a series of hikes to tobacco taxes since the beginning of 2019.