GATS Highlights Significant Tobacco Use Decline in Turkey

GATS Turkey Delegation

The Government of Turkey today released the country’s latest results from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), and the numbers tell the story of Turkey’s success to reduce smoking prevalence in the country. In 2012, 1.2 million fewer adults smoked cigarettes when compared to 2008. On a percentage basis, this figure translates to 27.1 percent of Turkish adults smoking in 2012 versus 31.2 percent in 2008.

Today’s announcement coincides with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World No Tobacco Day. According to WHO, the global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year—and that number is expected to increase to 8 million per year by 2030 unless comprehensive action is taken, similar to the efforts implemented in Turkey. There, using the evidence-based tobacco control package known as MPOWER, the government has undertaken systematic monitoring of tobacco use and implemented comprehensive tobacco control policies. 

In Turkey, GATS was implemented by the Turkish Statistical Institute (Turkstat) under the coordination of the Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This work was made possible by a grant to the CDC Foundation [press release] from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

As deputy chief operating officer of tobacco control initiatives for the CDC Foundation, I was in Turkey for today’s announcement along with CDC Foundation President and CEO Charlie Stokes and other dignitaries, including the prime minister of Turkey, Turkish ministers of health and finance, director general of WHO, CDC representatives and staff from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

In addition to fewer Turkish adult smokers, some other key findings from Turkey’s GATS release are:

  • Fewer non-smokers are being exposed to secondhand smoke in restaurants and workplaces, after implementation of the national smoke-free law in 2009 in restaurants, cafes and bars;
  • More smokers are taking advantage of government cessation services, including counseling and pharmacotherapy;
  • There has been an increase in citizens thinking about quitting because of health warnings;
  • Exposure to tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship remains low because of Turkey’s comprehensive ban; and
  • The real cost of a cigarette pack has increased substantially, and cigarettes have become less affordable.

As a partner in the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, the CDC Foundation helps CDC, WHO and other international partners work with countries to implement GATS and strengthen the monitoring of global tobacco use and key tobacco control measures. Data for GATS are gathered through face-to-face interviews using electronic data collection. In Turkey, GATS was conducted as a household survey of persons aged 15 years or older. GATS has been completed in 19 countries, covering more than 750 million of the world’s adult smokers.

According to the CDC Foundation’s Charlie Stokes, “We are pleased to partner with the Turkish government, WHO, CDC and Bloomberg Philanthropies by providing evidence that informs efforts to improve the health and lives of millions of people in Turkey. CDC brings a world-class approach to collecting data, which is essential to ensuring that the information is accurate in determining which approaches are most effective in reducing the prevalence of smoking.”

In other GATS news, Argentina this week is releasing its first round of GATS data, and Nigeria is expected to release its first round of results soon, making it the first country in the African Region to complete GATS.

The CDC Foundation is honored to work with all of our partners who are making such a positive difference in the health of the people of Turkey. We applaud all those in Turkey and around the world who strive to reduce tobacco use and its health burden while protecting the lives of millions.

Group Photo Caption: CDC Foundation CEO and President Charles Stokes, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and representatives from the GATS Turkey delegation celebrated the conclusion of the GATS Analysis Workshop in Atlanta in February 2013. Turkey is unique in that it is only the second country to repeat GATS.

Brandon Talley, MPH, is the vice president for programs for the CDC Foundation.