Drink & Drugs in Turkey

Turkey is rather schizophrenic when it comes to its attitude to alcohol and drugs. As a substantial wine producer it is, perhaps, not surprising that social attitudes to the consumption of alcohol are very relaxed. As an Islamic country, it is perhaps equally unsurprising that their attitudes towards drunken behaviour are unaccepting and uncompromising.

As both an Islamic country and a place which, until recently, was a major trans-shipment point for drugs entering Europe, it is easy to understand why their approach to the possession of drugs is also very negative and very robust.

Video guide to drink & drugs in Turkey

You can get a quick overview of narcotic laws in Turkey by watching this video interview (below) with Turkish lawyer Başak Yıldız Orkun. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide she has written with us.

Alcohol in Turkey

Turks do drink, the men more than women. This is true for both the religious and the secular. Drinking is less prevalent in conservative areas, such as eastern Anatolia, than in other parts.

Consumption is not high. In 2010, Turks drank an average of just two litres of raw alcohol equivalent (the measure used to average out the consumption of beer, wines and spirits) – (China 6.7, US9.2, UK 11.6, Germany 11.8, France 12.2).

Consumption is split 63% beer, 9% wine and 28% spirits.

Licences are required to sell or serve alcohol. They are administered by the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority.

In 2011, all advertising of alcohol in sports was banned. In 2013, new laws banned all forms of advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol is highly taxed. This “special consumption tax” (Özel Tüketim Vergisi ÖTV) was established in 2002 and dramatically increased in 2010 by the AKP government, whose leadership is known for their disapproval of alcohol. This led to a significant rise in smuggling and fraud and, probably, the 2011 Turkish Riviera mass alcohol poisoning.

Legal age for consumption of alcohol in Turkey

The lower limit to the age for the purchase of alcohol is 18.

Availability of alcohol in Turkey

Alcohol is widely available. In most areas it is sold in many food shops and supermarkets. It is, of course, also available in restaurants and bars.

Supplying drink to under age people

It is a criminal offence (the penalty is a hefty fine of between TRY12,543-627,250 or six months to one year in prison) to supply alcohol to someone who is below legal age. The seller’s license to sell alcohol will also be cancelled. This is an offence where ‘the act speaks for itself’. It is no defence that you did not know or even suspect that they were underage.

Drunkenness laws in Turkey

It is a criminal offence to behave in a disorderly manner (“threatening public security”) whilst under the influence of alcohol. It is also a specific offence under the current State of Emergency (post-coup attempt of 2016). Fine TRY100 (£22/€25/US$28).

Being drunk can also lead to you being locked up for the night “for your own safety”.

Disorderly conduct involves anything from shouting and rowdiness to vomiting in the street and fighting. The judges take the view that disorderly conduct is hard to define but they know what it is when they hear a case.

Although the minimum fine for disorderly conduct under the influence of drink is TRY100, in practice the fine rises significantly with each subsequent offence. Instead of a fine, offenders can be ordered to attend alcohol awareness classes and/or to undertake public service.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

See our guide on Crime & Criminal Cases in Turkey.

Cigarettes & smoking in Turkey

Attitudes to cigarette smoking are changing fast on the back of an increased awareness of the health risks and concerted government action to deter smoking. Or, maybe, it’s because it is now (to Turks) so expensive: TRY12 (£2.64/€3.03/US$3.40) for 20 cigarettes.

A couple of decades ago almost everybody over the age of about ten seemed to smoke.

Today fewer than 24% of the population smokes. Mostly men.

Smoking is banned in many public places, such as airports and restaurants, and many places of work. The response to “No Smoking” (Sigara Içilmez) signs is variable.

Legal age to buy cigarettes in Turkey

It is illegal to buy or possess cigarettes under the age of 18.

Supplying cigarettes to an underage person

The same rules apply as in the case of alcohol. See above.

Availability of cigarettes in Turkey

Cigarettes are widely available in shops, bars and restaurants.

Drugs in Turkey

Which drugs are restricted in Turkey?

The Turkey Drug Law of 1961 prohibits the possession or supply of “any chemical substance to alter states of body or mind for other than medically warranted purposes”. Alcohol is specifically excluded from the scope of this law.

Turkey has strict laws against the use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs. If you are convicted of any of these offences of supplying drugs, you can expect to receive a heavy fine or a prison sentence of four to 24 years.

‘Mere’ possession carries a minimum of one year in jail, and a maximum of two years. However, in the case of this particular offence, by a 2011 law the minimum jail sentence can be converted to a drug treatment order, a financial penalty, a supervision order etc. A second offence must receive a jail sentence.

Manufacturing or trading in the drug carries a minimum sentence of ten years and no maximum. In addition, there will be a financial penalty. If the drug is heroin, morphine (or morphine-based), or cocaine, the penalty is increased by 50%.

Do not mess about with drugs in Turkey!

International cooperation

The Government of Turkey has arrangements with many other countries, including all European Union countries and all North American countries, under which they share all intelligence about drug trafficking and report all convictions for drug-related offences to the government of the country of which the convicted person is a national.

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