Description of the law
Article 93 of Law No. 7061 introduces an amendment to Article 3 of the Anti-Smuggling Law that regulates the application of criminal provisions. More specifically, the amended article envisages that anyone who undertakes tobacco trade without a license or notification from the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority, or who sells, keeps or transports leaf cigarette paper filled with shredded tobacco or anything other than tobacco shall be sentenced to imprisonment for three to six years.
The proposal, which was drafted by the Ministry of Finance, was criticised by the opposition parties. Opposition MPs underlined the fact that the amendment to Article 3 and other amendments targeting the domestic tobacco sector in Turkey favour multinational companies and harm the socioeconomic situation of domestic tobacco producers, especially in the eastern part of Turkey where tobacco production is often the main source of income (see page 60).
MP Kadir Durmaz of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) drew MPs’ attention to the law’s negative effects on farmers whose main source of income comes from the trade in shredded tobacco (see page 47). Other critics have stressed that Article 3 of the law favours the interests of large multinational companies over the interests of domestic producers and consumers. Some have even argued that the proposal would lead to monopolies in tobacco production and trade and would force small local farmers to go out of business or risk imprisonment. It is estimated that over 200,000 citizens will be negatively affected by the law in Adiyaman alone.
On the other hand, the law’s proponents underlined that the proposal aims at fighting smuggling activities (see page 65). This was reiterated in a less formal statement by Minister of Finance Naci Agbal, who stated that the law tackles the illegal tobacco trade. Agbal further stated that the government does not want to control the illegal tobacco trade, but to eradicate it (see page 18 for his speech during the discussion of the proposal).
Full Law Name
Law No. 7061 regarding amendments to some tax laws and other laws, including the Anti-Smuggling Law, adopted in November 2017 (Official Gazette No. 30261)
Type of law
Act of Parliament, amendment to Law No. 5607
Scope of application
Substantive: ban on the illicit trade in hand-rolled cigarettes
Personal: tobacco producers
Temporal: until abrogated
Time of adoption and entering to force
Date of adoption: 28 November 2017
Date of entry into force: 5 December 2017 (published in the Official Gazette)
Who drafted it
Ministry of Finance, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP)
Who submitted it to Parliament or to another collective body
Ministry of Finance, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP)
Relevant developments in the process of adoption that show signs it’s tailor-made
During deliberations on the omnibus bill, the opposition parties and non-governmental organisations raised criticisms against the proposed law. A member of the Planning and Budget Committee and an MP for CHP, Mr. Bekaroglu, has stated that the proposed law serves the interests of multinational tobacco companies over the interests of domestic producers and consumers. Bekaroglu has described the law as heralding the return of the Regie Company, the largest foreign investment in the late Ottoman Empire, which had a monopoly over tobacco production at the time (see page 56). In a similar vein, a spokesperson for the Adiyaman Tobacco Platform has stated that the increasing value of tobacco from Adiyaman in the market made large multinational companies and traders uncomfortable, so they lobbied the Ministry of Finance and the proposed law was the result of their pressure campaign. A vice co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Fatma Kurtulan, has also stressed that the proposed law will lead to monopolies of large national and multinational companies in tobacco production and the tobacco business of small local farmers will collapse. Metin Aydoğan, a columnist, has similarly posited that the law will make it impossible for local producers to sell tobacco unless they have an agreement with tobacco merchants. Given that almost all tobacco trade in Turkey is carried out by international companies, Article 3 of the law would herald the end of local tobacco production and trade. If local producers continue to trade regardless, they will be sentenced to prison for three to six years.
Despite all of the discussions, the omnibus bill was ultimately adopted. Parliament had 550 seats at the time of voting in 2017. Out of 550 MPs, 226 MPs (6 MPs from the Nationalist Movement Party and 220 MPs from AKP) voted in favour of the proposal. The main opposition party did not attend the vote. (See here for the voting results.)
Who adopted it
Enforcement was delayed after Parliament accepted a proposal from MP Abdullah Tundere of CHP. The law was then going to enter into force on 2 July 2020, but enforcement was partly postponed again. More specifically, enforcement of the part relating to the tobacco trade was postponed to 1 July 2021, whereas the part on the trade in macaron paper filled with shredded tobacco has been in effect since 1 July 2020 (see here).
Initiatives to challenge it and their outcomes
Tobacco producers gathered and marched towards the governor’s office and AKP’s office in Adiyaman to protest the proposed law. Also, other producers gathered in İstiklal Street in the heart of Istanbul and held a press conference to call for the law to be withdrawn.
In addition to the protests, the Republican People’s Party visited Adiyaman (one of the main tobacco producing cities) to hear the opinions of local tobacco producers on the proposed law. MPs sought to establish the public’s opinion on the issue and draw attention to the needs of tobacco producers and the possible impacts of the proposed law (see here).
After the law’s adoption, MP Tutdere of CHP, who represents Adiyaman, submitted a proposal to Parliament to postpone enforcement of the law. His proposal was accepted and enforcement of the law was postponed to 2 July 2020. However, according to Tutdere, postponement of the law did not go far enough and the law should be entirely abolished (see here). Subsequently, he and other MPs of CHP submitted another request to postpone enforcement of the law to 1 July 2022. However, the proposal was rejected.
Currently, the enforcement of the section relating to the tobacco trade is postponed to 1 July 2021, while the part on imprisonment of anyone who trades in macaron paper filled with shredded tobacco is currently under enforcement (see also here).
Trade & customs
Direct beneficiaries and related networks
International tobacco companies
Tobacco producers in Turkey, particularly in Adıyaman, and anyone who is financially dependent on the local tobacco business will likely suffer from the law. MP Abdurrahman Tutdere, who is also Adıyaman Tobacco Platform’s spokesperson, estimates that over 200,000 citizens will be negatively affected by the law in Adiyaman alone. The law also hinders the domestic tobacco sector and enables multinational tobacco companies to dominate domestic production (see here).
The new law is expected to have severe socioeconomic effects on tobacco producers, their families and the local tobacco sector in general. Currently, however, it is not possible to gauge the law’s socioeconomic impacts because partial enforcement only began last summer.
Given the fact that tobacco production and sales constitute a substantial portion of agricultural production, one of the implications of the new law is that the income of tobacco farmers will fall and thousands of people will be put at risk of poverty (see here). For example, estimates suggest that the law will harm over 200,000 citizens in Adiyaman alone. The situation is also likely to result in higher unemployment rates, leading to migration from rural areas to cities and a potential change in the social balance (see here).
Impact on rule of law
Omnibus law-making has become a highly contested method in the Turkish legislation system (see here for general discussion). According to opposition parties, the omnibus Law No. 7061 and the above-mentioned amendment, which includes complex regulations on production, distribution, sales, and the judicial and administrative fines to be imposed on anyone who does not comply with the rules, did not go through consultation with relevant stakeholders, committees and non-governmental organisations. In other words, the process was not participatory and it departed from democratic principles (see page 147).
Adıyaman Tobacco Platform’s spokesperson Abdurrahman Tutdere has estimated that over 200,000 citizens will face negative effects on their livelihood as a consequence of the law. Sustaining livelihood is an individual right. Hence, the law can be said to pose a threat to the protection of individual rights. Thousands of people will become unemployed if the law is fully implemented. Tutdere also states that the local tobacco business is in danger of disappearing and that the government did not take into account the opinions and interests of local tobacco producers when drafting the law.
Is there any corruption case that is linked to the tailor-made law?
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