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Controversy over law on tobacco control

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 6
The issue of tobacco control has been discussed by the Georgian Parliament and Government since the end of 2005, when Parliament ratified the concept of introducing tobacco control systems in Georgia in line with World Health Organisation recommendations. By taking on this commitment the country also took on the responsibility to forbid the smoking of tobacco in public buildings and on public transport, forbidding tobacco advertising and sponsorship and other obligations. In December 2008 the law on tobacco control was indeed amended. Smoking was forbidden in public places, educational and medical institutions and on public transport and in bars and restaurants were forced to set aside separate areas for smokers and non-smokers.

The Georgian Government initially decided that these amendments would be introduced only in 2012. Although they did in fact come into force in September 2009, the Government still wants the delay them, opposes introducing penalties for law violations and so on.

The NGO Tobacco Control Alliance and its Chairman Giorgi Bakhturidze think that some government members are lobbying for tobacco interests and thatís why they are demanding the delays in implementing the amendments. Bakhturidze says that tobacco industry representatives and their lobbyists are wrong in stating that these amendments will harm business, because tobacco tax brings GEL 150 million into the budget, a figure which could grow as high as GEL 250 million, whereas the treatment of those with smoking-related illnesses costs over 300 million.

The Prime Minister and the Health, Finance and Education Ministers are in favour of introducing the amendments and think that as a first step smoking should be banned in schools and other educational institutions and over the coming 6 months in other places as well.