UN Supports Comprehensive Enactment of Tobacco-Control Legislation in Georgia

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

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

-       a smoke-free policy introducing a ban of smoking in enclosed public and workplaces as well as some open areas and in public transport;

-       a ban of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The UN Country Team has announced it welcomes the 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," the UN Country Team in Georgia says.

"Unfortunately, Georgia still belongs to the countries with very high tobacco consumption," the announcement goes on. "Tobacco smoking causes addiction and results in devastating consequences for individuals, their families and all of society."

It is reported that 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%), is said to have almost doubled in the recent years. Every fourth child at the age 13-15 year uses a tobacco product. More than 40% of the Georgian 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," the UN Country Team in Georgia notes.

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 are expected to 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 a significant step forward in saving lives and growing the economy. This law has significant support from Georgians, as more than 79% of the population support smoke free regulations and over 90% support the ban of tobacco advertising.

In 2017, the WHO FCTC Secretariat and UNDP estimated the economic burden of tobacco use and the 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, banning of advertising, health warnings and packaging, as well as smoke-free policies) the country can avoid GEL 3.6 billion in cumulative healthcare expenditures 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 endorsing and implementing tobacco control measures," the UN Country Team claim. "This has been observed in a variety of countries, including Georgia. It can and should be prevented with transparent work of national and international stakeholders."

"The UN Country 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 reach the highest attainable standard of health."

30 April 2018 13:18