A blow to Turkey's new smoking ban

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— Courtesy walterbjoern/Flickr
A coffeehouse in Istanbul

Enraged at having his cigarettes confiscated, a customer shot and killed the owner of a restaurant in the southwestern town of Saruhanli, according to a report by Reuters earlier today. It's the first—and hopefully last—casualty since a nationwide ban on smoking inside bars, coffeehouses, and restaurants took effect on July 19.

Similar bans have caught on in places where smoking seemed stubbornly ingrained in the everyday culture (consider Paris, Rome, NYC, and more recently India), but Turkey has a daunting number of smokers to win over.

More than half the Turks aged 15 to 49 who were surveyed in a May 2007 Gallup poll said that they had smoked on the day before the survey. Among the 100 countries surveyed, the next up were Lebanon (41%), Greece (40%), and Cuba (40%). Official statistics say almost one in three adults smoke in Turkey.

On the other hand, recent surveys suggest overwhelming public support for the ban, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who the AFP describes as "a tobacco hater," has thrown his weight behind the issue.

City establishments will face regular inspections, with fines starting at $381 for a first offense; individuals who light up will be fined $45. With the smoke clearing, are you more likely to consider spending time in Turkey and its cafés?

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