The tobacco control effort in Turkey has made significant progress in recent years. Turkey initiated its tobacco control effort with the passing of Law 4207 (The Prevention of Harmful Effects of Tobacco Products) in 1996 and ratified the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004. It is important to base policy decisions on valid and reliable evidence from population-based, representative studies that are periodically repeated to enable policy makers to monitor the results of their interventions and to appropriately tailor anti-tobacco activities towards future needs.
The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) was developed to track tobacco use among young people and enhance the capacity of countries to design, implement, and evaluate tobacco control and prevention programs. Turkey conducted the GYTS in 2003 and data from this survey can be used as baseline measures for evaluation of the tobacco control programs implemented by the Ministry of Health (MOH) of the Turkish government.
The GYTS was conducted in 2003 on a representative sample of students aged 13 to 15 years. It indicated that almost 3 in 10 students in Turkey had ever smoked cigarettes, with significantly higher rates among boys. Current cigarette smoking rates were lower, at 9% for boys and 4% for girls. The prevalence of current use of other tobacco products was about half these figures for each gender. About 80% were exposed to secondhand smoke. Exposure to pro-smoking media messages was not rare. Almost half of the smokers 'usually' bought their tobacco from a store, despite the law prohibiting this. Exposure to teaching against smoking in schools was not universal.
Findings from the GYTS, with periodic repeats of the survey, can be used to monitor the impact of enforcing various provisions of the present law (No: 4207), the progress made in achieving the goals of the WHO FCTC, and the effectiveness of various preventive interventions against smoking. Such data would inform and help in the development of public health strategy.