Turkey's Smoking Ban Not Enough to Clear the Air


Billboards advertising the smoking ban promote a "completely smoke-free Istanbul."

The final implementation earlier this month of Turkey's ban on smoking was hailed as a huge victory for public health. On billboards all around Istanbul, smiley-faced bubbles floated across clear blue skies alongside messages such as "Hello to a smoke-free Turkey." But one environmental engineer says it will take more than banning cigarettes in enclosed spaces to truly clear the air.

While some have portrayed the ban as part of a broader anti-vice campaign by the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Eylem Tuncaelli sees it more as a way for political leaders to avoid dealing with the country's real air-pollution problems.

Industrial Pollution Causes Cancer Too
"Unfortunately, it is impossible to speak of smoke-free air space in Turkey," Tuncaelli, the president of the Istanbul branch of the Environmental Engineers' Chamber (ÇMO), told the media-advocacy group Bianet. "People are facing the risk of cancer even without being exposed to cigarette smoke."

In Dilovası, an industrial city in the Marmara region, levels of air-borne toxins are 30 times higher than European Union standards, Tuncaelli said, adding that 32 percent of deaths in the area in recent years have been attributed to cancer.

300,000 Tons of Sulfur Dioxide
In the southwest city of Yatağan, a coal-fired power plant has spewed more than 300,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air since it opened in 1982. Environmentalists have called for the facility to be shut down.

Tuncaelli says environmental laws are often not enforced, allowing factories to get away with not controlling or filtering their emissions. Adds the engineer: "If the 'smoke-free air space' slogan is meant to be supported, it is much more important to reduce air pollution caused by the industry before banning cigarettes." Via: Bianet.org

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Tags: Air Pollution | Pollution | Smoking | Toxins | Turkey

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