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Turkey Bans Smoking in Many Public Places

New regulations against smoking in many public places went into effect in Turkey on Monday. The new rules ban smoking in educational, health, commercial, social, cultural, sports and all entertainment facilities. For VOA, Dorian Jones has this report from Istanbul.

In Istanbul's huge Cezaye shopping mall, one of Europe's largest, cigarettes are now forbidden. Security guards are under strict orders to enforce the new law, which makes owners of public buildings liable for a $4,000 fine if people are caught lighting up. Individual smokers face a $100 fine and will also be penalized for even dropping cigarette butts.

Enjoying the new smoke free air is 30-year-old shopper Hasmet Topoglu. He says the new law is long overdue.

"I don't smoke and I don't like that I am being subject to smoking wherever I go, for years I was trying to find places where there is a smoking section and also a non-smoking section," said Hasmet Topoglu. "But even if this is the case people don't follow the rules. So I am with the ban."

A Turkish anti-smoking group says more than 40 percent of adult Turks smoke, and according to the Turkish health ministry annually over 150,000 die each year from smoking-related deaths.

Turkey's high death toll from smoking was the key reason the government pushed through the tough new law. And in the coming months it is going to get even tougher with the ban being extended to bars, restaurants and clubs. But there appears to be a growing defiance among some smokers.

Ozgur Genc, a two pack a day smoker says the law will do little to break his habit.

"OK its forbidden I am going to pay my fine and going to smoke one cigarette," said Ozgur Genc. "There are so many people who can pay for it and smoke for it in Turkey, you will see."

But the government seem equally determined. Only days before the ban came into force, it issued a directive that strictly interprets the law, ruling out any ambiguities in the new legislation, along with a warning that it will be rigorously enforced. While the state authority controlling media also warned it would strictly enforce the ban on all images of cigarettes on TV programs and films. Turkey now seems set for a battle of wills.