WHO Report 2019: Smoking Kills 11,400 Georgians a Year

Around 11,400 Georgians die every year as a result of tobacco use, and the country loses 2.4% of its annual GDP to tobacco-related deaths and disability, claims the World Health Organization (WHO) in their Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2019.

The report reads that Georgia has one of the highest rates of tobacco use in the world. About 33% of the adult population are current smokers (including 57% of men), in addition to 12.6% of 13–15-year olds.

The WHO says while the first tobacco control law in the country was adopted in 2003, strong interference from the tobacco industry prevented the law from being comprehensive.

For more than a decade Georgia’s laws remained stagnant. However, in 2015 a plan for change began to take shape and stricter law on tobacco use was adopted in 2017.

Tightened tobacco regulations entered into force in Georgia on May 1, 2018. Smoking tobacco, including electronic cigarettes and hookah, is prohibited in all enclosed areas, with the exception of houses, psychiatric clinics, penitentiary facilities and casinos. Smoking of cigars is only allowed in cigar-bars, where food products are not sold. A special license is necessary to open such a bar.

The law also requires that pictorial health warnings cover at least 65% of the two biggest sides of the packaging of all smoking tobacco products.

Packages of smokeless tobacco products must provide written health warnings on 30% of the two biggest sides. Three general graphic health warnings and three additional ones with relevant pictograms are subject to rotation during a year and should be equally distributed on each type of tobacco package.

The report identifies Georgia as among the three most successful countries with the highest level of achievement in terms of the WHO recommendations issued last year.

The organization underlines that Georgia has succeeded in monitoring tobacco use, has successfully run anti-smoking campaigns in the media, and has introduced warnings on packaging.

The report reads that Georgia is among the 14 countries - Barbados, Cameroon, Croatia, Cyprus, Guyana, Honduras, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain and Timor-Leste that adopted large graphic pack warnings.

It also says that Burkina Faso, Georgia, Israel, Romania and Slovenia have passed laws on plain packaging on tobacco products but not regulations and do not yet have implementation dates.

“Ongoing tobacco industry interference continues to undermine tobacco control efforts in Georgia, with the industry successfully delaying the implementation of plain packaging to December 2021,” the organization says.

The WHO says that thirty countries, with 2.1 billion people, are only one provision away from a complete advertising ban and nine - Bhutan, Croatia, Finland, France, Georgia, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkmenistan - need only to ban brand-stretching.

The organization says that the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year around the world. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

“Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest,” the WHO says.

It also says that tobacco taxes are the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among youth and low-income people.

“A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10% decreases tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and about 5% in low- and middle-income countries,” says the WHO.

The new report reads that progress has been made in the fight against tobacco, but increased action is needed to help people quit using deadly products.

By Thea Morrison

Image source: Mayo Clinic

05 August 2019 16:43