Smoking Ban Fever Hits Turkey

Seemingly improbable smoking bans are fun because everyone bitches and moans for a while that it´s tantamount to cultural heresy and bodes certain death to the very essence of a city/country/romantic way of life. It happened in New York, Paris, Buenos Aires, London, Hong Kong, etc. Yesterday the tobacco-lovingest Turks implemented one of the strictest bans on smoking in all of Europe (though they are technically partly in Asia, but that´s another matter) that makes smoking illegal in all closed public places, including the typical Turkish tea and coffee joints where one might light up a traditional nargileh.

But even though smoking seems like a birth right in Turkey, polls suggest most people are actually cool with the radical measure. That might be because 100,000 Turks die from smoking related illness each year, so it makes sense to try and cut back a little. Or maybe it´s because they´re comparing the 2009 edition of the tobacco ban ($50 fine for lighting up) to the previous, 17th century ban for hitting the nargileh (execution by order of the gnarley Sultan Murad IV). I´m guessing the old ban was probably more effective at curbing repeat offenders. Either way, there are worse places to be if you need to calm your nerves with a neuron-numbing substance, like Malaysia, where yesterday an enlightened religious court sentenced a 32-year-old Muslim model to six lashes of the cane for drinking a beer in a club. So the next time you´re up in the club nursing a Miller High Life and jonesing for a smoke, just be grateful you don´t have to face section 136 of the Pahang Islamic and Malay Traditional Practices Enactment 1982 (amendment 1987).