From 1 May 2018, the following measures will come into effect:
- non-smoking policy that bans smoking in closed public and workplaces as well as some open areas and in public transport,
- ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
UN national team welcomes the implementation of this important regulation, which was endorsed by the Georgian parliament a year ago. All national stakeholders are encouraged to ensure its implementation, and consequently to protect current and future generations from catastrophic consequences of tobacco use.
Unfortunately, Georgia still belongs to the countries with very high tobacco consumption. Tobacco smoking causes addiction and leads to devastating consequences for individuals, their families and society as a whole. In Georgia, the prevalence of smoking among men is among the highest in the world at about 57%; the official incidence of smoking among women, despite still being relatively low (about 10%), has almost doubled in recent years. Every fourth child at the age of 13-15 years uses tobacco product. More than 40% of the population, including children and pregnant women, are exposed to second-hand smoke.
Children have an absolute right to be protected from tobacco exposure, including the effects of adult smoking, which can harm a child’s health even before birth. The Convention on the Rights of the Child emphasizes the right of the child to enjoy “the highest attainable standard of health” and includes detailed obligations for states, many of which are relevant to protect children from the harmful effects of tobacco.
In Georgia, thousands of smokers and people exposed to tobacco smoke suffer from numerous diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and cancer. Half of all long-term smokers will be killed early by a smoking-related illness. About 11,000 Georgian citizens die prematurely each year from diseases caused by tobacco, and among them are more than 2,000 non-smokers. The worrying figures clearly indicate a need for strong and threatening action in the field of tobacco control.
Implementing the said legislation is an important step forward to save lives and grow the economy. This law has significant support from Georgians, as more than 79% of the population supports smoke-free regulations and more than 90% support the ban on tobacco advertising.
In 2017, the WHO FCTC Secretariat and UNDP estimated the economic burden of tobacco use and the impact of tobacco control measures in Georgia (The Case for Investment in FCTC Implementation in Georgia). Each year, tobacco costs the Georgian economy GEL 824.9 million, equivalent to 2.43% of Georgia’s GDP in 2016. These costs include:
- direct health care expenditure totaling GEL 327.3 million, and
- economic losses due to premature death, disability and workplace costs totaling GEL 497.5 million.
The same study concludes that the country, through the full implementation of four major tobacco control measures (tax increases, advertising bans, health warnings and packaging, as well as non-smoking policies) GELS 3.6 billion in cumulative health care spending and economic losses over 15 years, and at the same time save a minimum of 53,000 lives.
The tobacco industry interferes with all phases of the underwriting and implementation of tobacco control measures. It has been observed in several countries, including Georgia. This can and will be prevented through the transparent work of national and international stakeholders.
UN national team is highly committed to continuing its support to the national authorities in strengthening tobacco control in Georgia with the ultimate goal of enabling people in Georgia to achieve the highest achievable standard of health.