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Strong new legislation to reduce tobacco use and protect people from the harms of smoking comes into force in Georgia today, 1 May 2018 -- including bans on smoking in indoor public places, tobacco advertising and promotion, and misleading terminology on tobacco packaging such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’. This is the first round of a comprehensive set of laws that will be rolled out during 2018 in an effort to curb the country’s high smoking rates.

According to The Tobacco Atlas, 57.7 percent of men and 5.7 percent of women in Georgia are daily smokers. In 2016, over 23 percent of deaths among men and 5.7 percent of deaths among women were caused by tobacco. The economic cost of smoking in Georgia, around 619 million GEL, includes direct healthcare costs and indirect costs due to lost productivity through ill-health and premature mortality. Last May, Georgia’s Parliament passed laws in line with WHO best-practice MPOWER measures for reducing tobacco use to tackle this public health threat. Those measures start coming into effect on 1 May 2018.

The Director General of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, Amiran Gamkrelidze, said their goal was to reduce smoking rates by one percent each year through rigorous enforcement of the new tobacco control laws. “Our law was amended last year, and now everything counts on enforcement,” he said. “In Georgia, more than 20 percent of deaths each year are tobacco-related. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing non-communicable diseases.”

The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) has provided technical support and grant-funding for development of evidence-based tobacco control policies in Georgia since 2009, as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union and CEO and President of Vital Strategies, said: “There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. Georgia’s new laws will ensure that people are protected from these toxic chemicals. We know that smoke-free laws also encourage smokers to reduce their tobacco use, and ultimately to quit.

“We congratulate Georgia for taking a strong stand against the tobacco industry, and protecting and promoting the health and wealth of its citizens above the interests of these multinational businesses. Georgia is becoming a regional leader for its efforts to reduce tobacco use at the population level.”

A multi-platform media campaign has been launched to raise awareness and encourage compliance with the new smoke-free law, funded and supported by Vital Strategies.

Regulations that come into force from today include:

• Smoking and use of e-cigarettes is banned on all public transport and public buildings, with the exception of casinos, cigar bars, prisons, palliative care units and private taxis. Ensuring smoke-free compliance falls to the owners and managers of public venues. Offenders will be fined on-the-spot: 500 GEL (US$ 250) for the first offence, doubling for the second offence.
• All forms of tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship are banned, and health warnings will be displayed before and after films where smoking is shown.
• Georgia’s ‘drive-through’ tobacco sales outlets are also now banned, as are sales online and through the post.
• Additional legislation to prevent direct or indirect tobacco industry involvement in health policy-making.
• In September, larger graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging to cover 65 percent of the front of packets come into force, with a view to introducing plain or standardised tobacco packs from January 2023.

 

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