Anti-tobacco control industry strategies in Turkey
Gültekin Karakas, Derya
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Background: Transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) penetrated the Turkish cigarette market due to trade and investment liberalization in the post-1980 period and eventually secured full control. Despite tobacco control policies put in place in reaction to accelerating consumption, TTCs reinforced their market power through a variety of strategies. This paper explores industry strategies that counteract tobacco control policies in Turkey. Methods: The study employs both qualitative and quantitative analyses to explore industry strategies in Turkey. Besides the content analyses of industry and market reports, descriptive analyses were conducted for the sub-periods of 1999-2015. The analyses focus on the market strategies of product innovation, advertisement-promotion, cost management and pricing. Results: Rising sales of low tar, ultra-low tar, slim, super-slim and flavoured cigarettes indicate that product innovation served to sustain consumption. Besides, the tobacco industry, using its strong distribution channels, the Internet, and CSR projects, were found to have promoted smoking indirectly. The industry also rationalized manufacturing facilities and reduced the cost of tobacco, making Turkey a cigarette-manufacturing base. Tobacco manufacturers, moreover, offered cigarettes in different price segments and adjusted net prices both up and down according to price categories and market conditions. In response to the successful effect of shifts in price margins, the market share of mid-priced cigarettes expanded while those within the economy category maintained the highest market share. As a result of pricing strategies, net sales revenues increased. Aside from official cigarette sales, the upward trends in the registered and unregistered sales of cigarette substitutes indicate that the demand-side tobacco control efforts remain inadequate. Conclusions: The Turkish case reveals that the resilience of the tobacco industry vis-a-vis mainstream tobacco control efforts necessitates a new policy perspective. Rising market concentration by TTCs and the global nature of industry strategies require that the highly profitable manufacturing and trade of tobacco products should be discouraged on a basis of international collaboration. To reduce and eventually eradicate tobacco consumption, supply-side tobacco control measures are needed along with demand-side policies.