Istanbul’s authorities are improving the city’s alcohol policy.
In response to serious alcohol harms, Istanbul is introducing common sense limits on the presence of alcohol in public places.

Istanbul’s authorities have issued a policy to create more alcohol-free public spaces. The recent policy is called the “Sale of Alcohol and Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages Act”. It has come into effect on August 17. Its goal is to increase the availability of alcohol-free public spaces and to reduce the presence of alcohol across the city – for example at the waterfront, in beaches, parks, picnic areas, and recreational spots – to prevent and reduce alcohol harms. People who break the rule, have to pay a fine up to 617 Turkish lira (about $23.14).

New Policy Targets Alcohol Use in Public Places to Curb Disruptions.

The main reason behind the policy is that people in Istanbul are exposed to serious harm caused by alcohol. The governor’s office has recently received a number of complaints about people causing trouble, disturbing the peace, and causing security issues due to alcohol.

These disturbances have made people scared and anxious.

Istanbul’s Policy Faces Opposition

Currently, alcohol use in public spaces in not regulated in Türkiye’s alcohol law. As long as alcohol use does not cause disturbances or interfere with others it is permitted. But Article 35 of the country’s Misdemeanors Law prescribes fines for “individuals disrupting the peace of others while intoxicated”, reports New Arab.

Advertising alcoholic beverages in shop windows is illegal in Turkey and liquor shops are also prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages after 10pm.

But in Istanbul alcohol harm is negatively affecting many people and communities. Therefore, the new legal measure explicitly prohibits alcohol consumption in certain public areas. It also imposes fines on individuals who violate the rule.

But the Istanbul Bar Association has filed a legal petition with an administrative court against the new rule.

The petition’s objective is to halt the circular’s implementation. The Bar Association states that the circular violates constitutional principles and the privacy of people.

Istanbul’s governor office later clarified that the circular was a ‘reminder’ of existing laws, according to New Arab reporting.

Positive side of alcohol-free public spaces: Prague example

Istanbul is not the only metropolis where alcohol harm is affecting people’s health, well-being, and safety. Prague, the capital of Czechia, is another major city where people face severe consequences from second-hand effects due to alcohol.

That’s why Prague authority issued a policy to increase alcohol-free areas in the city, going from 800 to over 1000 in 2022.

The objective was to make life more enjoyable for everyone. When there’s too much alcohol around, it fuels problems like noise, litter, and violence. Therefore, authorities used alcohol policy to increase the number of alcohol-free areas in Prague, to improve the quality of life, health and safety of residents. These measures help keep public places peaceful for people and make sure everyone can enjoy the city.

Nevertheless, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is against Istanbul’s circular for alcohol-free public spaces. The CHP’s parliamentary group chairman, Özgür Özel, opposes the policy on grounds of fundamental freedom rights and diversity.

But the narrative of “personal freedom” in opposition of increasing alcohol-free spaces ignores that severe effects of alcohol on people’s access to and enjoyment of spaces that should be available for all.

Many people in Istanbul have faced about alcohol-related problems, as people in Prague and other cities have.

The decision was made in order to protect the natural environment and to prevent the emergence of negative situations, stated Governor Davut Gul, as per TVP World reporting.

Davut Gul, Governor, Istanbul

Comprehensive alcohol policy implementation

The policy decision to create more alcohol-free public spaces in Istanbul is the latest in a series of a comprehensive approach to protecting people from alcohol harm.

For the past 10 years, opening hours of liquor shops have been reduced to 10 p.m. To increase compliance with this common sense limit on alcohol availability the government raised the minimum fine for violating this rule to 215,000 Turkish liras, and the maximum to 1 million liras, earlier in 2023.

Furthermore, the government has also increased the alcohol tax rates in recent years. The tax share of the retail price of alcohol products such as rakı, vodka, and gin has been increased to be more than 60% . The tax rate for a bottle of beer is around 55%. With this policy, alcohol affordability has reduced, contributing to reductions in consumption and harm due to alcohol.

The government has also taken action to protect more young people from alcohol promotions by alcohol companies. For example, the availability and promotion of alcohol in university spring festivals, and music festivals across the country has been reduced in the past two years. 

Source Website: TVP World