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Talking Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has made some bizarre statements, but his recent one about vaping takes the biscuit

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has made some bizarre statements, but his recent one about vaping and tobacco harm reduction takes the biscuit – as he advises people wanting to quit smoking to drink more tea. This begins to make sense when one factors in Turkey’s Top 10 position as one of the largest global cigarette manufacturers.

President Erdogan apparently claims that he recently instructed his Trade Minister to never allow any vape products into the country – something that will only add to the confusion experienced by the millions of tourists planning on visiting Turkey.

He is reported to have said that he believes tobacco companies are attempting to get rich by poisoning people. Erdogan appears to not fully understand the current combined wealth of the tobacco industry or his country’s role in making that happen.

From WHO [link]:

  • The diseases caused by smoking impose a substantial burden on Turkey’s health care system. According to the Ministry of Health, of the 5 million patients hospitalized in 2000, 20% suffered from a disease caused by tobacco
  • Turkey is one of the ten largest cigarette producing countries in the world, accounting for 1.7% of global production
  • Male smoking in Turkey is higher than in all Western European countries and is among the highest in Central Asia

From Tobacco Atlas [link]:

  • More than 65300 die from tobacco-caused diseases annually
  • More than 186000 children and 16698000 adults use tobacco daily, 2011
  • 41.4% of men smoke
  • Smoking kills 1016 men per week
  • 74696 metric tons of tobacco produced in Turkey in 2014
  • 159.91 billion cigarettes produced in Turkey in 2016

Latest figures [link] indicate that indicate that 14.5 million adults and 252,000 children still smoke on a daily basis, and that deaths attributed to tobacco-caused diseases has now risen to 83,100 per year.

JTI Tütün Ürünleri Pazarlama turned over in excess of £1.3 billion in Turkish tobacco sales last year [link].

This ought to be the kind of thing to knock some sense into the Turkish public health community, but Dr. Füsun Yıldız, a professor at Kyrenia University in Turkish Cyprus, was recently quoted saying: “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.”

“They asked us for a place and permission to produce these e-cigarettes. We didn't give it to them and we will not,” British Asia News reports Erdogan as saying. “They want to invest in Turkey...Go and make your investment elsewhere.”

"Let's put down cigarettes and drink our Rize tea. I don't make many suggestions, but as a president, I am telling those I love that this is haram.”

Tea drinking has never been demonstrated to be an effective means of tobacco cessation, and President Erdogan’s refusal to accept the basic facts relating to tobacco harm reduction fails 14.5 million adults and 252,000 children.


  • “Erdogan says he will never allow vaping, will block e-cigarettes in Turkey”, British Asia News [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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