ASHGABAT -- Turkmen officials have raised the price of cigarettes by some 350 percent in the past two months in an effort to curb smoking, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.
Prices were initially increased by 50 percent after the country acceded in May to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In early July, the average price for a pack of cigarettes on Turkmenistan's tightly regulated market rose to the equivalent of $3.50 after two successive price increases. Before the price hikes, the average cost for a pack of cigarettes was about $1.
The WHO's tobacco-control convention stresses that using taxes to increase the price of cigarettes is an effective means of reducing tobacco consumption and thus lowering the mortality rate from cancer.
But Ahmed, 32, a frequent smoker who lives in Ashgabat, told RFE/RL that people now just tend to buy cheaper brands of cigarettes.
"I know many people who want to give up smoking, but I haven't seen a single one of them succeed," he said. "Of course, some people now try to smoke less [because of the increased prices], but they become more stressed out. Some buy cheaper cigarettes...which are much more harmful [to one's health] than luxury brands."
Bayram, 29, a taxi driver in Ashgabat, told RFE/RL that preventing people from starting to smoke would be more effective than trying to force smokers to quit. He said he smoked his first cigarette in the military, where many smokers say they first picked up the habit.
Turkmenistan banned smoking in public places in 2000. But local observers say cigarette consumption has not declined despite that restriction.
The overwhelming majority of smokers in Turkmenistan are men.