ANKARA May 13 The Turkish government has
prepared a draft law that would ban advertising alcoholic drinks
in what officials say is an effort to protect children but could
further divide religious and secularist Turks.
The bill, which was sent to parliament on Friday, would also
ban companies that produce alcohol from sponsoring events,
restrict where alcoholic drinks are sold and consumed, and
require Turkish producers to place health warnings on packaging.
"Our aim is to protect society, particularly children and
youth from taking up these habits at an early age, and not to
limit an adult's alcohol consumption," Yahya Akman, a lawmaker
in the ruling AK Party and one of the draft's signatorees, told
Reuters on Monday.
The move was made only weeks after the conservative prime
minister, Tayyip Erdogan, who is known for his dislike of
alcohol, declared ayran, a non-alcoholic, yogurt refreshment as
the national drink.
It follows a ban on drinks service on several routes flown
by state-run Turkish Airlines.
Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. Although
Turkey's population is 99 percent Muslim, it has a secular
constitution. It belongs to NATO and is a candidate for European
Many secularist-minded Turks fear tighter rules on drinking
could undermine the separation of state and religion.
The bill, expected to become a law before parliament
recesses in July, would bar venues that allow the sale and
consumption of alcohol from openly displaying the products to
The government says it is not attempting to interfere in
people's lives and is trying to bring Turkey up to European
norms by controlling alcohol sales and protecting the younger
generation as it negotiates to enter the EU.
"This is to make sure that alcohol consumption is not
encouraged among young people. The state has a responsibility to
protect the family and the public," Akman said.
Passage of the law would also be another blow to local
brewers that are already grappling with taxes that are more than
100 percent on alcohol, one of the highest in the world.
Akman said public health is a higher priority than
"A company's profit is insignificant when compared with the
health of the general public, which is what's at stake here."
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, editing by Ayla Jean Yackley and