New smoke free legislation in Georgia under heavy influence by tobacco industry

The Parliament of Georgia is currently discussing a new smokefree law, which includes smokefree policies in public places and work places, ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship, and the implementation of the TPD as an associated EU member. With heavy influence and interference from the tobacco industry however, the draft law is facing numerous challenges prior to its second hearing in Parliament on 3 May.

In June 2016 the Government of Georgia presented its official conclusions on a proposed legislative package to strengthen tobacco control in Georgia. The majority of the proposals were considered adopted in the first hearing. In April 2017 however, a new governmental conclusion was adopted with the aim to influence the Parliament decision and derail the adoption of the draft law.

The majority of comments in the new conclusion directly repeat the official positions of the tobacco industry and pose serious threats to public health. Among its points, the Government of Georgia requests that the tobacco industry participate in national decision-making processes and consultations regarding health issues. This proposal is in direct contradiction with the requirements of FCTC Article 5.3 and its guidelines to which Georgia became a partner in 2006.

The Government report further proposes to make loopholes in the tobacco control legislation by allowing smoking in some enclosed places and repealing the proposed display ban at points of sale. The conclusions leaves the issue of enforcement unclear with no clear indications of which governmental structures will be responsible for main pillars of the law, creating a high risk of postponed enforcement and non-compliance with the law.

Georgia is chosen as one of the 15 partner countries in the FCTC 2030 projects and has received intensive and tailored support from the FCTC Secretariat in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by advancing implementation of the Convention. In spite of this support, the tobacco industry is aggressively targeting the proposal for a new smoke free legislation through these attempts to weaken the draft text and include a number of exceptions to its provisions.

George Bakhturidze, Director of the FCTC Implementation and Monitoring Centre Georgia, comments:

“The Government conclusions of April 2017 clearly demonstrate the enormous impact of the tobacco industry on Georgian policy-makers and ultimately on the health of children, young people, and adults in the country. In this situation we need to be strong and insist on the respect for the health of our citizens, our legal obligations under the WHO FCTC, and the right for young Georgians and future generations to grow up without the heavy exposure to tobacco they are experiencing now.“

ENSP fully supports the efforts of the Tobacco Control Alliance Georgia and the FCTC Implementation and Monitoring Centre Georgia to monitor and bring an end to tobacco industry’s influence on the development of national tobacco control legislation. On 18 April 2017 Tobacco Control Alliance Georgia and ENSP participate in the Working Group Meeting at the Georgian Parliament. The meeting is held in preparation for the 2nd hearing of the law on 3 May 2017 at which the new law will be voted under WHO and FCTC participation.

Read the Statement of Tobacco Control Alliance Georgia (reactions on the Governmental conclusions).

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Images from the Working Group Meeting at the Georgian Parliament, 18 April 2017.

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