Advancing tobacco control in Georgia
Tell us about your background and work with tobacco control:
I have been working in the field of tobacco control since 1999 when I was working in the Georgian National Counter Tobacco Center. At the beginning, I was the head of Programs and then the Center’s executive director in the Center. One of my duties was to learn about the FCTC preparation processes and organized appropriate advocacy work.
Since 2000 I have been involved in FCTC INB processes and have attended the INB-1 from the side of government. I presented six corrections and proposals in the first draft of FCTC. Afterwards, I participated in INB-3 and INB-6 from the side of NGO.
In 2003, I established a new NGO: FCTC Implementation and Monitoring Center in Georgia: (www.fctc.org.ge) and I’m a coordinator of Tobacco Control Alliance in Georgia, which is a member of the FCA.
I’ve organized lobbying and advocacy work to sign and then ratify the FCTC, which was done in December 2005.
Furthermore, I’ve organized lobbying and advocacy work for adaptation of new changes in national law on tobacco control on the ground of FCTC provisions that were adopted in December 2008.
More recently, I was appointed as a tobacco control consultant by WHO/Euro to promote implementation of the FCTC in some of the countries of our region.
Last year we organized smoking prevention and communication actions under the umbrella of the Georgian First Lady’s Healthy Lifestyle Initiative – “Don’t Worry, be Healthy”. Right now we work to promote a total tobacco ads ban, national tobacco control law enforcement processes on the governmental level and smoking cessation service development throughout the country.
What are some of the challenges you face in your work?
A serious challenge is the tobacco industry and their lobby in governmental structures. They oppose all of our efforts to implement the FCTC as well as national legislation, plans, etc.
Another serious challenge is a lack of resources. All donor support finished last year and Georgia still has no multidisciplinary state program on tobacco control or sustainable funding mechanism to implement tobacco control activities. Administering mechanisms are also weak.
What are some success stories as a result of your work?
We prepared a packet of new changes in national legislation on the FCTC obligations and are looking forward to debates in the Parliament of Georgia. We hope that, together with our local and international colleagues, we can avoid tobacco industry resistance. Public support is very high to implement tobacco control measures, but business interests still prevail on public health interests. But we believe that this situation will be changed in the new future when Georgia becomes more democratic state where human rights and their interests would become top priority in the governmental agenda.
You have been described as an expert on tobacco control issues in the former Soviet Union. Please share with us an overview of the status of tobacco control in the region.
Regarding expertise in former Soviet countries, there are special experts in each country with whom we have cooperation and collaborations in different issues of tobacco control. Sometimes they are involved with our decisions; sometimes I am involved in their work, because the mentality and situation is very similar. We systematically share our experiences through social networking or private contacts.
Read more about recent information regarding tobacco control status in our countries.