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WHO honors PM Erdogan's anti-smoking campaign

WHO honors PM Erdogan's anti-smoking campaign

Recognizing his efforts to discourage smoking in Turkey, the World Health Organization yesterday awarded Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan its 2010 Special Prize for the Global Fight Against Smoking. "About 100,000 people in our country and more than 5 million people worldwide die annually due to diseases caused by smoking," said Erdogan during the awards ceremony, which fell on the first anniversary of Turkey's indoor smoking ban. "Active smokers are at much as risk as people who carry a weapon in their hands," he said, adding that smoking claims more lives than terrorism and also causes more than 50 diseases. Erdogan said the government is determined to continue its anti-smoking campaign and urged people to support these efforts. He added that people who spend time in close proximity to smokers are also hurt by smoking, citing WHO estimates that 700 million children worldwide are exposed to cigarette smoke. "One can see how smoking is widespread even in families that are extremely poor and live in very difficult conditions," Erdogan said. "I see poor people who can't even afford proper food and clothes yet carry packs of cigarettes in their pockets." The premier said Turkey is getting more sensitive to the dangers of smoking, belying the European expression "smoking like a Turk" to refer to heavy smokers, and in fact is now seeing fewer people smoke. Rebuffing critics who say anti-smoking laws limit freedom, Erdogan said, "There is no freedom to commit suicide."

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