Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 15:57 UK

Turks rally against smoking ban


Coffee shop owners protest against the ban

Hundreds of Turks have taken to the streets of Ankara to protest against a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants which was brought in last month.

Many of the protesters are cafe owners who say the ban is hurting trade and want smoking to be allowed in special areas of their establishments.

The government banned smoking in most enclosed public spaces in May last year and extended the ban last month.

Turkey has 20 million smokers but polls suggest most people support the ban.

Don't add a coffeehouse crisis to the economic crisis
Protester's banner

Turkey aspires to become a member of the EU, and the ban brings the country into line with most EU countries.

Anyone caught lighting up in a designated smoke-free area faces a fine of 69 lira ($45; £28).

Bar owners who fail to enforce the ban could be fined from 560 lira for a first offence up to 5,600 lira.

On Tuesday about 1,000 protesters gathered in a park outside the health ministry buildings with brightly coloured banners daubed with slogans and, inevitably, many cigarettes.

"Don't add a coffeehouse crisis to the economic crisis," one banner read.

Other banners threatened that the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a supporter of the ban, would suffer at the next election.

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