Received from FCA on Oct. 15, 2021:

PMI and FSFW have sunk their claws deep into tobacco regulation in Turkey. After several failed attempts to forge permissive regulations to introduce novel tobacco and nicotine products into the Turkish market, recently the industry has changed gears and engaged a leading think-tank group, The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey(TEPAV), known for its close ties to the Government, to approach both Government officials and the medical community in the country. TEPAV is the ideological arm of the Chambers of Commerce and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey and as such exerts great influence on trade and manufacturing policy. Mr. Cemil Çiçek, a veteran politician and a former Chair of the Turkish Grand Assembly, serves as a member of the High Advisory Board of the President, as well as a member of both boards of trustees and directors of TEPAV.


FSFW has provided funds for two projects to be run by TEPAV. In turn, TEPAV has set up a new team and a unit, under the name of TEPAV Health Economics, produced a comprehensive report, The Economics of Curbing Smoking in Turkey, a policy note, titled Why study Turkey’s tobacco control policies?, and made a wide-ranging invitation to a webinar, The Economics of Curbing and Cessation of Smoking in Turkey, to be held on 21 October 2021. The aim of the webinar is stated as to discuss further research questions and policy questions. An analysis of the aforesaid report indicates that it is full of covert industry positions on the alleged failure of conventional tobacco control policies and the allure of harm reduction strategy. 

From the onset, the Turkish tobacco control community stepped into action against this development. The Turkish Coalition on Tobacco or Health, under the roof of the Turkish Medical Association, issued a statement calling for the cancellation of the FSFW-TEPAV project and asking the members of medical community not to attend the Webinar. The Health Institute of Turkey organized an online press conference on 12 October 2021 which was covered in the media with such titles as “The new plan of the tobacco industry for Turkey”. Parallel to these efforts, WHO Turkey Office representative Prof. Ergüder and the Vice Chair of the Health Commission, Mrs. Erdebir, have used their strong suit in politics in order to reverse these developments. In the meantime, the Program Director at TEPAV, Güven Sak, has announced from his twitter account that they would now assume responsibility in developing the tobacco control policies in the country. Recently, they have run a news article about BAT’s statements at the recent Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum which appeared in a number of news media. 

As its fifth largest market and a key manufacturing and export base of PMI, Turkey is a critical country to introduce novel tobacco and nicotine products, and if possible with permissive regulations. Currently, imports of these products are prohibited, and up to now no manufacturing and marketing permits have been issued. Nevertheless, the products are available on the market as illicit products. The authority to regulate tobacco products lies with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health is entirely silent on the issues. Nonetheless, policies are discussed and made within the Office of the Presidency and the ministries are expected to implement them. Given that tobacco control has fast deteriorated in Turkey, the tobacco control community is anxious that the introduction of novel products would deliver the final blow.