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Parliament Passed the Bill on Tobacco Control

20.05.2017

 
Natia Gogolashvili

“Nowadays, the world is in the global war. The war, which kills 2 million people every year. The war, from which the tobacco industry earns trillions of USD and 35 billion USD profit. Consequently, the industry earns 6 000 USD from every tobacco-killed person. Every year 11 000 people die in Georgia in this war. 3 000 of them (among them 300 kids) had made clear decision not to smoke. Georgia loses half billion GEL in this war every year. Georgia funds medical treatment of the “wounded” in this war with 78 million GEL; we are losing this war without any hope,” Akaki Zoidze, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Healthcare and Social Issues addressed the MPs during the second hearing of the bill.

85 supporters vs 1 objector – on May 17, the Parliament passed the bill on the Tobacco Control at the third hearing during the plenary session. MP Guguli Magradze was initiator of the bill. The presenter introduced the colleagues with the amendments, which were introduced to the bill after the second hearing. She said the amendments mostly referred to legal and editorial corrections. 

The amended Law on Tobacco Control prohibits smoking in the closed and public spaces, prohibits tobacco advertising and demands plain packing of cigarette boxes, which will have pictograms. 

The law sets clear time-frame for each new prohibition: from January 1, 2018 the companies will be obliged to use plain boxes with pictograms for cigarettes. From May 1, 2018 people will not be able to smoke in the closed spaces except flats, psychiatric clinics, penitentiary and detention settings and casinos. From May 1, 2018 the tobacco advertising will be prohibited. From September 1, 2018 the shops will be forbidden to place tobacco products in visible places – like shop windows. So-called drive-tobacco will also be prohibited. As for internal visibility of tobacco products, it will be prohibited from 2021.

“There are certain issues, where we took the government’s recommendations into account, like the issues related with terms. The government recommended not to harry with the introduction of all restrictions and we accepted it. Thus, neither tobacco industry nor advertising or other industries will have their activities hindered. The restaurants, bars and cafes will have time to adjust their infrastructure in accordance to the law requirements,” MP Guguli Magradze said.

The third hearing of the bill in the parliamentary committee on healthcare and social welfare caused particular discontent of the representatives of the tobacco industry because of so-called plain “standardized” packing. They said they had not consulted this issue with the government and the new regulation was added only during the committee discussions.

“We are against plain packing. First of all, this regulation was not passed through the first hearing; procedures were violated. At the same time, the result is very important. According to the authors of the bill, the purpose of the regulation is reduction of smoking in the country. Australia is a very clear example, where plain packing was used but it encouraged illegal trading and the country lost 1.2 billion USD. The smoking was not reduced. Introduction of this regulation will result unemployment of about one thousand middle-level and higher managers, who work in the tobacco industry. This regulation infringes our intellectual property that is guaranteed under the Constitution of Georgia. Thus it is inadmissible and unjustified regulation,” corporative director of the British American Tobacco Zviad Skhvitaridze said.

“If the smoking and sale of tobacco products will not be reduced, why they fight against this simple regulation then?” the representatives of the Alliance for Tobacco Control responded to the Tobacco Industry. They said plain packing will significantly reduce tobacco sale that is proved by various surveys.

“Plain packing supports to make smoking unfashionable. Plain packing means that nobody will like the poison wrapped in beautiful boxes. Now, the poison will be packed in the appropriate box. First of all, it is very effective measure for children, beginner smokers. The argument of the tobacco industry as if it will not affect the number of smokers, is not true. For example, in Australia, when the plain packing was introduced, the number of smokers reduced at 3% that is very important achievement; the number of smokers among youth drastically reduced. Consequently, plain packing is very effective method to fight against tobacco use,” representative of the Tobacco Control Alliance Kakha Ghviniashvili said. 

“Now we must be very cautious. We know who enemies of this law are. They are eager to drag out the process as longer as possible. For example, the government may prolong the process of passing the normative acts. I hope the government will follow the time-frame. If the process is dragged out, it means the tobacco industry is working. It is within our interests that the law was really effective and that the population got convinced that their right to life and health is respected in this country,” head of the Alliance Giorgi Bakhturidze said.

He said they will carefully monitor the enforcement process of the law. 
 
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