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Long-term readers of Tobacco Control may have felt quite giddy at times from the rollercoaster developments of Turkey's tobacco control policy. There was little movement at the start, of course, but once the thing got going, speedy policy gains were followed by hopes being dashed by economic supremos insisting on letting the free market—for which read Philip Morris and friends—being allowed seemingly unfettered access to the nation’s huge youth population. Next there was to be a comprehensive tobacco bill, then it got stuck and, even after finally being passed into law, the government seemed highly reluctant to enforce it.
All that is history now, an optimist might think, with the new start offered by the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). But the white knuckle ride has started again, with news late last year that the much needed smoke-free bill required under the FCTC had left the commission of justice not as the shiny new state-of-the-art model that health workers had been working so hard to produce, but in a state they could only describe as "destroyed". And surprising as it may have been to anyone naive enough to believe the corporate social responsibility nonsense spewed out by tobacco companies, the usual suspects who do the companies' dirty work in the media had been running highly misleading articles justifying the destruction.
However, this is Turkey and when the roller coaster plunges down, it can often swoop back up again unexpectedly to its former height. Sure enough, when the country's prime minister, accompanied his by health minister, launched the national tobacco control programme in December, his speech sounded as though he really was determined to have strong legislation and completely smoke-free indoor areas. As health experts were weighing up whether they could allow themselves to recover some of their lost hopes, they realised that their premier was unaware of the treacherous items in the bill that were so favourable to the tobacco industry. So what did they do? Again, remember this is Turkey, where things can work a little differently from many other countries. They simply stopped him on his way out, explained the dangers and pleaded with him to hold out for a completely smoke-free environment. Their reward was an assurance from both the prime minister and the health minister that they would stand firm. Time will tell how it will all end but meantime the roller coaster was last seen heading upwards again.