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Georgia mulls public smoking ban

25 February 2017

Legislators in Georgia are discussing proposals to a ban smoking in public spaces. The changes would include all kinds of buildings, with the exception of private homes and correctional facilities. If passed, it will prohibit smoking in secondary schools, universities, educational facilities, libraries, all kinds of public transport, stadiums, as well as private businesses.

However, if Parliament adopts the bill, the legislation will not immediately come into force. The bill envisions a preparatory period, allowing bars, cafes, restaurants, casinos, clubs, and others to allocate special smoking areas until 1 January 2018. These sections must not occupy more than half of the area of the venue, and must have a ventilation system or a window connected to an open space. The smoking sections must be fully separated from the non-smoking area with walls.

The same rules will apply to beauty salons, shops and trade enterprises, private offices, and factories, but with smoking sections not occupying more than 5% of the whole area.

If owners of private facilities do not meet the requirements, they will be fined ₾500 ($195), or for repeat offenses — ₾1,000 ($390).

Smoking will be allowed only in special circumstances in mental health institutions and palliative care centres, with exceptions requiring special permission from supervisors. Thus, smoking zones in these institutions must be isolated from the rest of the building as well.

The bill was developed by a anti-smoking group, the Tobacco Control Alliance, and introduced to Parliament by Guguli Maghradze, an MP from the ruling Georgian Dream party.

The Committee on Health and Social Issues of the Georgian Parliament discussed the changes on 21 February and voted for the amendments. However, after the committee’s support, the bill will still need to be approved during plenary sessions in the near future.

According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco kills around 6 million people each year around the globe. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to secondhand smoke.

The head of the Health and Social Issues Committee in Parliament, Akaki Zoidze, was quoted by InterPressNews as saying that approximately 11,000 people die annually as a result of smoking in Georgia. According to him, enactment of the bill will halve that number.