Turkey's president approves smoking ban

ANKARA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Turkish President Abdullah Gul approved a law on Friday banning smoking in restaurants and bars, his office said, in a move aimed at bringing the nation of hardened smokers into line with much of the rest of Europe.

The ban, backed by parliament two weeks ago, will not take full effect for 18 months but has already led to a delay in plans to sell Turkish firm Tekel Cigarette, pushing the bidding deadline back to Feb. 18 as investors assess the implications.

British American Tobacco


and Japan Tobacco


are among foreign firms analysts expect to bid for Tekel, which has about 40 percent of the domestic market.

Turkey is the world's eighth biggest cigarette market, with Turks smoking 103 billion cigarettes a year.

The ban will include cigars, pipes and the traditional water pipe, a popular attraction for tourists in Istanbul and Turkey's coastal resorts as well as for locals.

Many Turks doubt that the ban will be properly implemented in a country where rules and regulations are regularly flouted. (Writing by Gareth Jones, edited by Richard Meares)