In early April the stateinformation agency TDH, referring to experts of the World health Organization (WHO), reported that only 3,4% of smokers were recorded in Turkmenistan in 2018. According to the WHO, in previous years, the number was consistently recorded at about 8%.
Correspondents of Chronicles of Turkmenistan tried to find out the reason, which allegedly caused the 50% reduction in the number of smokers within the course of a year.
However, none of the smokers who were interviewed has noticed any changes. According to them, there has been no largescale reduction in the number of smokers, but almost all of them concurred that people are smoking less due to the high prices for cigarettes.
For instance, in 2016 a pack of cigarettes was sold at 10 manats whereas now the cheapest cigarettes in staterun stores cost as much as 30 manats. Restrictions on the sale of tobacco products still apply but you can purchase 2 to 3 packs if you also buy some slowmoving merchandise for 5 manats as a bonus. The quality of these cigarettes, according to our respondents, is appalling.
Only staterun stores are officially allowed to sell tobacco products but, despite the bans, almost all privatelyowned retail outlets sell cigarettes under the counter.
The tobacco business is very profitable. If a shop openly sells cigarettes despite the ban, it means that some officials, senior police officers or the NSM staff are behind this, interlocutors of Chronicles of Turkmenistan argue. The selection in such stores is considerably more extensive but then the prices will also be significantly higher.
A pack of cigarettes of famous brandsParliament, Kent, ESSE and others, costs 7090 manats ($2026 using the official rate of $45 at the black market rate). This is up to 7,5% of an average salary, which is around 1200 manats. Such cigarettes are a symbol of prosperity and are smoked only by wealthy entrepreneurs and government officials.
Smoking hits hard in the pocket. Many of the respondents are willing to give up the bad habit but complain that they will not be able to manage this on their own as no nicotine replacement therapy is offered to them.
Various nicotinecontaining chewing gums, patches or sprays are more expensive than cigarettes and they are not very efficient either, one of the smokers complained.
People are apprehensively awaiting 2025, when Turkmenistan intends to become the first smokingfree nation. Many are convinced that cigarettes will still be sold under the counter as now but that their price will subsequently increase along with fines not only for smoking but also for possession of cigarettes.
Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan