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Georgia pushes ahead with significant upgrade to national tobacco control programme

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Georgia’s Parliament hosted a high-level event on World No Tobacco Day to mark the recent advance of national laws that will reduce tobacco use and protect and promote the health and economic well-being of the Georgian people.

The Director General of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, Professor Amiran Gamkrelidze, and Head of the Healthcare and Social Issues Committee, Dr Akaki Zoidze, set out the new legislation and its projected impact at the event on 31 May. It was attended by members of parliament, ministers and deputy ministers of the Government of Georgia, civil society organisations, national media and international partners.

The new legislation was passed in early May, and will: ensure all enclosed public spaces are 100 percent smoke-free; introduce plain [standardised] tobacco packaging; ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; ban the direct or indirect involvement of the tobacco industry in health policymaking; ban ‘drive through’ tobacco sales outlets.

‘Despite strong opposition from the tobacco industry, the Georgian government has forged ahead with this significant upgrade to its national programme to reduce tobacco use. These measures will discourage children from taking up smoking, and encourage current smokers to quit,’ said Dr Gan Quan, The Union’s Director of Tobacco Control. ‘We congratulate the government and encourage them to press on with this life-saving work.’

The Union has been supporting tobacco control in Georgia since 2009 with technical and financial assistance under the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. Dr Ehsan Latif, The Union’s Senior Advisor on non-communicable diseases, attended the 31 May event.

Earlier this year pioneering work to reform tobacco taxes – the most powerful measure for reducing tobacco use – was announced in Georgia. Ministries of health, finance and agriculture worked together towards the common goal of reducing tobacco use, committing to meet European Union required levels of tobacco taxation within ten years. As a result, Georgia was invited to partner with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC] on its new initiative FCTC2030 – to help countries achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.A and reduce non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030. Tobacco use is the primary risk factor for non-communicable diseases.

At present Georgia has some of the highest smoking rates in Europe – 57 percent of men and 7 percent of women.