A bill proposed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government seeking limitations on the consumption of alcoholic beverages and tobacco was approved by Parliament on Friday, bringing in strict restrictions on the sale of alcoholic drinks and sanctions for those violating the law.
The government drafted the bill in order to protect children and young people from the harmful effects of alcoholic beverages. The bill was adopted following a 17-hour debate in Parliament, during which tensions sometimes rose among deputies.
Some deputies from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) stayed in Parliament until the early hours of Friday in an attempt to prevent the passage of the bill.
A fight erupted between CHP deputy Levent Gök and AK Party deputies. CHP deputies accused the AK Party of acting like Murat IV, an Ottoman sultan who banned alcohol and tobacco, and said that the AK Party is interfering in people's lifestyle choices. The bill received the support of 193 AK Party deputies. Four Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputies voted against it.
The newly approved bill, which will go into effect once approved by President Abdullah Gül, will also ban the advertising of alcoholic beverages and all forms of their promotion.
Campaigns, promotions or events that aim to encourage the use or sale of these products will not be allowed. Companies that produce, import or market alcoholic beverages will not be permitted to sponsor events using the brand or logo of their products. These companies will also not be allowed to offer free alcoholic beverages as a promotion or giveaway. Violation of this bill will incur a fine of between TL 5,000 and TL 200,000. No images of alcoholic beverages will be allowed in TV series, movies or music clips, and any that do appear will be blurred.
In addition, the sale of alcoholic beverages will be banned between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Those who violate this law will incur a fine of between TL 20,000 and TL 100,000.
According to the bill, alcoholic beverages will not be sold to individuals under the age of 18 for them to consume on the premises or take with them. Violation of this could lead to a fine of between TL 10,000 and TL 500,000. If a minor's health is placed at risk, the offender will be given a prison sentence from six months to one year.
Individuals who are under the age of 18 will not be allowed to be employed in the production, sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages. If there are individuals already working in this sector under the age of 18, they will be allowed to continue working for one more year.
Alcoholic beverages will not be sold in vending machines. Signboards advertising alcoholic beverages will be removed within a year.
Health warnings will be included on the bottles or other packaging of alcoholic drinks. Any bottles or packages that do not carry a warning message cannot be sold.
If a beverage includes any quantity of alcohol, this quantity must be written on the bottle in a way that is easily visible to consumers.
The sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages will not be allowed at facilities along highways. In addition, the sale of alcoholic beverages will be banned at the restaurants of student dormitories, medical facilities, stadiums, closed sports halls, all kinds of educational facilities, coffee houses, pastry shops and restaurants of gas stations. Violation of this law will warrant a fine between TL 10,000 and TL 100,000.
Shops selling alcoholic beverages will need to be at least 100 meters away from schools, university preparation course facilities, student dormitories and places of worship. The 100-meter obligation will not apply to facilities that have a tourism certificate. Shops that already have a license to sell alcoholic beverages will be exempted from this 100-meter obligation.
According to the bill, drivers who register a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 will be given a fine of TL 700 and their driver's licenses taken away for six months. Drivers who refuse to take the blood alcohol test will be taken to the nearest hospital or forensic medical council where they will give blood, saliva or urine samples.
Drivers who register a BAC of more than 0.1 will face a jail sentence of up to two years.
If a driver's license has been suspended for drunk driving and the driver commits the same crime within a five-year period, they will face a fine of TL 877 and their driver's licenses will be taken away for two years.
The bill also bans smoking in the driver's seat of private vehicles.
PM defends alcohol ban
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday defended the bill limiting the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages across the country, saying the government does not want a “wasted” generation.
“We do not want a generation that drinks day and night and that is wasted. They [young people] should be awake and equipped with knowledge. We want such a generation and we are taking steps in this regard,” Erdoğan said.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also commented on the newly approved bill on Friday, saying that the bill brings European and US standards to Turkey with regards to the ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“The amendments are not aimed at banning the consumption of alcohol,” he said.
He also said that Article 58 of the Constitution says that the state has a responsibility to protect young people from alcohol addiction, adding: “When you look at Europe and the US, you see that there are advertising bans there. But Turkey was not in compliance with the standards in these countries to this effect. These amendments aim to maintain a harmony with their standards. In many countries, shops selling alcoholic beverages cannot sell them after a certain hour at night.”
Bozdağ also recalled that the Kadıköy Municipality of İstanbul, run by a CHP mayor, banned the sale of alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m. and nobody opposed the municipality's decision.