Georgia has adopted the International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that forbids tobacco advertisement in mass media. The Georgian government takes continuing measures to follow this convention in accordance with Georgian law. But tobacco advertisements still appear in the press in undisguised content.
According to the public health department of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, the International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was adopted on December 16, 2005. Within the period of five years after adoption of this convention, the participant country must undertake appropriate legislative, executive and administrative measures.
Georgian law bans tobacco advertisements on radio, TV and in newspapers, but it is still possible to advertise tobacco product in magazines.
Natia Gagua, head of the advertisement department of the Georgian-language edition of Cosmopolitan Magazine, said that since Georgian law does not prohibit tobacco advertisement in magazines, that's why they put an advertisement for Parliament Light cigarettes on the third and fourth pages in the second issue of the magazine.
Cosmopolitan did not put the tobacco ad on the first page, said Gagua, and never would publish a photo of women smoking. She said at least 98 percent of the magazine's readers are women ages 18-35. According to Gagua, the price for an advertisement for one full page is $1,600 and the circulation of the magazines is between 10,000-15,000.
"We do not violate the law. If something changes in the law of advertisement, we will also change and stop tobacco advertising in our magazine," said Gagua. In future issues, they plan to put in tobacco advertisements two more times. "We will see what will happen regarding regulations in the country, and then decide on future advertisement strategy," Gagua said.
Mariam Ochigava, 34, is a Cosmopolitan reader and chain smoker. She says she always tries to choose a fashionable brand of cigarette.
"The quality of advertisement made by Cosmopolitan is so nice and fashionable, it is impossible not to fix your eyes on it. I think advertisement has significant power," said Ochigava.
According to Kakha Gvenianidze, senior specialist at the Public Health Department, the law on tobacco control in Georgia is not perfect, especially regarding advertising tobacco products in newspapers and magazines. He says the law doesn't specify the size and location of the advertisement, which makes it difficult to control.
Gvinianidze thinks "cigarettes are a transmitted epidemic and pandemic that is transferred by means the advertisement and promotion" and that's why regulation of advertising is very important for an effective anti-tobacco campaign. Gvinianidze said the Public Health Department worked out a bill about advertisement and sponsorship, based on the international convention, and that it should be accepted by parliament in the future.
Otar Gerzmava, the director of Continuing Medical Education and a professor at Tbilisi Medical University, said that citizens must also participate in the anti-tobacco processes. "Our people get into the habit that government must control everything and care of everyone. But it is their health, and they should take care of themselves," he said.
Although under the current law advertising of tobacco on TV and radio is prohibited, there are hidden advertisements. For instance, smoking in movies and on programs influences people.
"About 20 percent of people under the age 14 and 36 percent of women smoked in Georgia in 2002-2003. However, there is not any exact study in Georgia, showing how many people are smokers now," said Gerzmava, who supports efforts to change the law, and awaits its acceptance by parliament.
Ghvinianidze said in order to regulate tobacco smoking in public places, the Public Health Department needs more finances. Presently 80,000 lari (about $44,000) comes from the national budget. "The main task which faces government is creating a rigid system of tobacco control," said Ghvinianidze.
According to a study conducted by Oxford University Press, positive images created by advertising have substantial effect on teenagers' decisions.
Nata Gelovani, professor of psychology at the Chavavadze State University in Tbilisi, pointed out that advertisements influence every person who wants to smoke. "If person has smoked even once, advertisement has an impact on him, and for those who have intentions to smoke, advertisements impact them as well," she said.
Rezo Talakhadze, 23, has been a chain smoker since he was 16. "Tobacco advertisement? Did it influence on me? Maybe, who knows, but the most powerful advertisement for me were the people with whom I was connected, because all of them were chain smokers," he said, adding that he sometimes prefers to buy cigarettes which he remembers from an advertisement.
Gelovani said increasing prices on tobacco is one effective method to decrease the number of smokers in Georgia.
Ghvinianidze says the Georgian government plans to allocate more money to promote anti- tobacco programs in 2007. The Public Health Department plans to create social advertisements and organize a hot line service.
"Our department organized training for journalists. Mass media plays a big role and must cover this problem correctly," said Ghvinianidze.