Turkmenistan publicly burns cigarettes in nationwide anti-smoking campaign

Authorities in Turkmenistan have publicly burned piles of cigarettes as they embark on a campaign to stamp out smoking spearheaded by the healthy living-obsessed president.

State television in the secretive and authoritarian Central Asian nation on Friday broadcast images of village elders and diplomats looking on as blocks of cigarettes were shoveled into a stove.

Officials said the cigarettes were seized after being illegally smuggled into Turkmenistan.

Smoking is legal but strongly discouraged. In 2000, smoking was banned in all public places, including on the street.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov last week complained about the wide availability of cigarettes, which led to most shops pulling them from their shelves. Prices for single packs immediately went up to $14 from $6.