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UN Supports Comprehensive Enactment of Tobacco-control Legislation in Georgia

The UN Country Team in Georgia welcomes enactment of tobacco control legislation in the country.

From May 1st, 2018 the following measures enter into force:

  • smoke free policy introducing ban of smoking in enclosed public and workplaces as well as some open areas and in public transport,
  • ban of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

UN Country Team welcomes implementation of this important regulation endorsed by the Parliament of Georgia a year ago. All national stakeholders are encouraged to secure its implementation, and consequently protect present 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 results in devastating consequences for individuals, their families and all of society. In Georgia the prevalence of smoking among men is among the highest in the world at approximately 57%; the official prevalence rate of smoking among women, despite still being relatively low (about 10%), has almost doubled in the recent years. Every fourth child at the age 13-15 year uses tobacco product. More than 40% of population, among them children and pregnant women are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Children have an absolute right to be protected from tobacco exposure, including the effects of adult smoking, which can compromise a child’s health even before birth. The Convention of 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 protecting children from the harmful effects of tobacco.

In Georgia thousands of smokers and people exposed to tobacco smoke suffer from numerous diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases and cancers. Half of all long-term smokers will be killed early by a smoking-related disease. Approximately 11,000 citizens of Georgia die prematurely every year from diseases caused by tobacco, and among those are more than 2,000 non-smokers. The alarming figures clearly indicate a need for strong and imminent action in the area of tobacco control.

Implementation of the mentioned legislation is significant step forward in saving lives and growing the economy. This law has significant support of Georgians, as more than 79% of population support smoke free regulations and above 90% support ban of tobacco advertising.

In 2017 WHO FCTC secretariat and UNDP estimated economic burden of tobacco use and effects of tobacco control measurements in Georgia (The case for investing 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 healthcare expenditures totaling GEL 327.3 million, and
  • economic losses due to premature mortality, disability, and workplace costs totaling GEL 497.5 million.

The same study concludes that by full implementation of four major tobacco control measurements (raising taxes, ban of advertising, health warnings and packaging, as well as smoke-free policies) the country can avoid GEL 3.6 billion in cumulative health-care expenditures and economic losses over 15 years, and at the same time save a minimum of 53,000 lives .

Tobacco industry interferes with all phases of endorsing and implementing tobacco control measures. This has been observed in variety of countries, including Georgia. It can and shall be prevented with transparent work of national and international stakeholders.

UN Country Team is highly committed to continue its support to the national authorities in strengthening tobacco control in Georgia with the ultimate goal to enable people in Georgia reaching the highest attainable standard of health.