According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Turkmenistan has the world’s lowest proportion of smokers. Only 8 percent of its population light cigarettes.
Where is Turkmenistan?
This small Republic is an ex-Soviet territory located in Central Asia.
- It is bordered by the Caspian Sea to the west, Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the east, Afghanistan to the southeast, and Iran to the south.
- Its population is only about 5 million people, with Turkmens constituting 74% of it, Russians and Uzbeks 4% and 3%, respectively.
- The country has the world’s 4th largest reserves of natural gas. Thus, gas production is the most promising and dynamic sector of the national economy.
- Turkmenistan became independent after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
- Its first president Saparmurat Niyazov ruled the state from 1990 until his death in 2006.
- In 2007, the Republic held presidential elections won by Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who has held the office until the present time and is likely to remain in power until he wishes to retire or dies, as his predecessor. He was re-elected for the third time in February 2017 with 97% vote.
Presidential “No” to smoking
President Berdimuhamedow, a former dentist, intends to free his state from smoking within the next 8 years.
For that pupose he established a National Program for 2017-2021 with the view to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The State News Agency of Turkmenistan made an announcement on April 14, 2017 detailing the program’s goals:
- Popularize healthy life-style;
- Increase life expectancy;
- Make the state tobacco-free by 2025.
In February 2017 the sale of cigarettes was prohibited in the capital prior to presidential elections, when Berdimuhamedow was voted in for the third time, Radio Azathabar reported. Because prices on the black market are several times higher than in the state shops (private companies are prohibited to sell tobacco), every time the sale is resumed, it evoked giant queues.
Cigarettes became a valuable currency since January 2016 when “the war on smokes” raised the bar by public fire of contraband packs, Lenta.ru wrote. A few days before that cigarettes disappeared from the stores for the first time.
Reportedly, bans also reinvigorated illegal growth of tobacco and contraband.
New anti-tobacco rules
In 2016, President Berdimuhamedow adopted new anti-tobacco rules that banned cigarette advertising and smoking in cars, KP.ua reported.
Besides, smoking has been prohibited in all public places since 2000. Fines for smoking in public areas have been increased 5 times and reached 300 manat (USD $86), which is quite sensitive to citizens of Turkmenistan who earn around USD $300-400 monthly. Previously fines were on the level of 60-75 manat ($35-45).
The fight started in 2011 with the government increasing the tax on sale of tobacco products. The price jumped up to $15 per pack.
The Service for Protection of Safety of Healthy Society regularly checks local markets for violations of anti-tobacco regulations. Sellers who are found to stock nicotine products have to pay a fine equal to 10 minimum salaries (5900 manat or $1680), Current Time reported.
Global data on smoking
According to the study published by the Lancet medical journal, globally 11.5% of deaths is caused by smoking cigarettes. Despite strong evidence of adverse health effects of inhaling nicotine, every fourth male globally smokes every day, as compared to 5.4% of women.
Worldwide, the USA, Russia, China, and India have the highest mortality rate due to the use of tobacco: 52% of deaths occurred in these 4 countries. China and Russia are in top 10 by consumption per person.