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Education and Finance Ministers Accused of the Illegal Tobacco Advertising

The government, which names a reason for the increase in excise tax on cigarettes concern for the health of the population, does not hurry to introduce restrictions on smoking in public places. Moreover – despite several attempts,  restrictions on the sale of cigarettes near schools  have not been implemented.

The bill restricting the advertising and use of tobacco, which had  to be discussed  in the fall session, delayed.

A government that does not abandon the introduction of a variety of regulations  for  business, still cannot legitimize the basic approaches to  the tobacco industry adopted in the civilized countries.

Even in 2013, Director of the National Center for Disease Control Amiran Gamkrelidze told commersant.ge  that the adoption of  amendments to the relevant advertising and  tobacco laws by Parliament was expected in the 2014 first quarter and the restrictions should be implemented in the same period.

As for the introduction of full smoking ban in closed restaurants, bars and cafes, he said that according to the action plan, the studies would be conducted in 2013-14 to determine appropriateness of the new regulation as well as the date of its introduction.

However, the real steps have not been taken to date. As “Commersant” found out, the bills have not been discussed in the autumn session and evoke protest on the part of deputies.

The head of the National Center for Disease Control Amiran Gamkrelidze states “Commersant” that  the reason for the postponement of the consideration is disagreement between  various agencies. Gamkrelidze  suggests that the Parliament will discuss the issue at the spring session.

Giorgi Bakhturidze , the head of the Tobacco Control Alliance, suggests  that a reason for the delay in the adoption of the bill is that the tobacco industry made a deal with the government and got a promise to delay the adoption of the law in turn for the increase in excise tax on tobacco.

Moreover – the head of the Tobacco Control Alliance explains to “Commersant” that tobacco companies every day are feeling  freer and freer and increasing  the scale of violations.

In his words,  Finance Ministry officials regularly meet with the industry representatives and agree their plans that is prohibited under the Convention since 2006.

Bakhturidze estimates, tobacco companies are illegally advertised and  implement various sponsorship campaigns which is also prohibited by the law.

“For example, British-American Tobacco Company sponsored Tbilisi and Sukhumi State Universities, the Japanese company sponsors Economy Ministry and theaters public officials, as well as journalists, which is prohibited since 2009. Therefore, we appealled to the Interior Ministry and local authorities who are responsible to carry out control over a compliance  with  the law. Here are the signs of malfeasance,”- says Bakhturidze adding  that the tobacco industry’s revelry reached such a level that even touched on the  schools.

Bakhturidze notes  that the particular officials should be penalized because of such actions. The Alliance will request the Prosecutor’s Office in the near future and does  not rule out that the issue of responsibility for  the education and finance ministers will raise.

In the words of Giorgi Bakhturidze, behind the image of “social responsibility” the tobacco companies are engaged in their own advertising , which is illegal. According to him, the tobacco industry now feels freer  than under the previous government.

Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health Guguli Magradze  does not exclude the possibility that the tobacco companies have their own lobbyist in Parliament while  she supports  the adoption of  the restrictions as soon as possible.

Guguli Magradze  claims that some MPs oppose to the bill due to the fact that thjey are  smokers and do not want to restrict themselves.

In April 2013, Bidzina Ivanishvili started a meeting with  television and print media with   the tobacco problem and said that in the first stage the government would help smokers, along with that he notes that  the  control would be tightened  and a number of places  when  smoking was banned would  increase.

However, to date, in the majority of cafés and restaurants non-smokers’ rights are violated. When Georgia with its European ambition will implement the elementary norms of the civilized world is still unknown.