There is a clear correlation between the high tax rates, reaching up to 300%, on alcoholic beverages and the black market for bootleg. As access to regulated and taxed alcoholic beverages becomes more difficult, the black market for bootleg becomes a more appealing alternative for consumers. This situation harms local producers, honest businesses, and law-abiding citizens, while benefiting the black market operators. Unfortunately, the data for the second period of 2023 in Turkey continues to show this trend.
During the months of April to June 2023, a total of 127 operations were conducted against bootleg in Turkey. These operations resulted in legal action taken against 876 suspects, and a total of 257,584 liters of illicit alcohol were seized. Following counterfeit alcohol, the second most commonly seized product in these smuggling operations was, sadly, illegal drugs. This indicates that the difficulty in accessing legal alcoholic beverages in Turkey not only fuels the black market for bootleg but also contributes to drug consumption in a similar manner.
It is true that legal regulated alcoholic beverages are not harmless per se, but compared to counterfeit alcohol and illegal drugs, they pose a much greater risk and health hazard in the long run, in addition to being illegal substances. Given such a clear causal relationship, it is difficult to understand why policymakers make accessing regulated alcoholic beverages so challenging. The biggest threat to public health is drug use and the black market for counterfeit alcohol. Facilitating access to less harmful alternatives, such as regulated alcoholic beverages, would help deter the preference for both of these criminal elements. In this way, Turkey can achieve success not through law enforcement operations but through rights-based and liberal public policies.
In May of this year, the 2023 Nanny State Index (NSI) was also published. The NSI is an index published by the Institute of Economic Affairs, a UK-based think tank led by lifestyle economist Christopher Snowdon. It measures and compares state interventions in lifestyle and consumption policies. With the contribution of the Freedom Research Association, Turkey was included in the index this year and, so to speak, topped the list. Turkey was identified as the first among 30 European countries in three out of four categories and had the highest overall score. However, Turkey’s top ranking is not a positive one. Being first in the NSI indicates that Turkey is the most “nanny” state among the 30 European countries, meaning the state that interferes the most with what we eat and drink. We cannot say that this finding misleads us when it comes to alcohol policies. In fact, alcohol policies are an important aspect of the Nanny State Index. Despite having by far the lowest average alcohol consumption on the list, Turkey has maintained its top ranking in alcohol sales. Furthermore, there are countries with much higher per capita pure alcohol consumption than Turkey on the list, yet they have lower scores in terms of the nanny state index compared to Turkey.
Therefore, at this point, we are exposing the undesirable concrete outcomes of the consumption policies in Turkey.
2023 April – June Turkey Bootleg Data
Deaths related to bootleg: 5
Amount of seized bootleg: 257.584 LT
Hospitalization related to bootleg: 3
People prosecuted during the operations: 876
2nd most seized product: Drugs
Alcohol Consumption per capita rank of Turkey: 47th
Total operations: 127
NSI 2023 score: 1st
City with most operations: Mugla