Join us for this episode of GFN Voices 2023 with Giorgi Mzhavanadze, who shares his thoughts on the GFN Conference as a KAC THRSP Scholar and provides insight into Georgia's current smoking prevalence.
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Joanna Junak: What's your name and where are you from?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: My name is Giorgi Mzhavanadze. I am from Georgia.
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Joanna Junak: And what do you do? What is your background?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: I'm a researcher already eight years in terms of economics, mainly it's macroeconomics. But since 2017, I was involved in tobacco taxation and then in harm reduction research.
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Joanna Junak: And is this your first time at GFN conference?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: This is already my second time. The first time was last year when I became a scholar and I got a grant from a scholarship from the KAC. And yeah, as I said, this is my second conference.
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Joanna Junak: And what do you think about this year's GFN conference?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: This year's conference is the largest one, I think, because it's four days covering a broad of topics which can be interesting not only for researchers, but for the broader audience. And as I said, a lot of topics were discussed during the last four days.
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Joanna Junak: And which topic on the conference seems to be most interesting for you?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: For me the most interesting was the hardship and difficulties with publication when you work especially in the field of tobacco harm reduction. Because of the nature of my work and I'm in academic research mostly, it's daily difficulties which I face.
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Joanna Junak: And can you tell us about the projects you are currently working on?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: Sure, I'm currently working on three projects. First is the estimation of illegal market in Georgia of cigarettes and how it affects smoking prevalence and taxation and tax revenues. Second one is the estimation of potential impact of e-cigarettes on death toll from cigarette smoking in former Soviet Union countries and currently I am covering five countries including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine and hopefully this year we will also include Moldova into the list. And the future project which we are going to conduct in Georgia is to estimate the impact of plain packaging of cigarettes, combustible cigarettes and heated tobacco products which our government is going to introduce since 2024.
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Joanna Junak: And what situation is in Georgia in terms of using combustible cigarettes and other?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: In Georgia, smoking prevalence is quite high. By our estimates, we conducted a survey in 2022, and it's around 28%. By WHO estimates from 2016, it was 31%, and among men, it was 56%, which is the highest in Europe. So in 2018 we introduced new tobacco control law and also a nearly tripled taxation of combustible cigarettes. We saw some decrease in prevalence during the recent years and it's declined by three percentage points. But still there is a lot of things that can be done to improve the situation further.
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Joanna Junak: And what products are available on the market in Georgia?
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: Nearly every tobacco product is available. Everything is legal in terms of sales and consumptions. Combustibles, of course, are the top products by consumption. Our research by Healthy Initiatives conducted in 2022 showed that only 1% of population use electronic cigarettes and also about 1% use heated tobacco products. So the high reduction products are not very popular at this moment. in Georgia, but the trends show that their popularity is gradually increasing.
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Joanna Junak: Great. Thank you so much.
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Giorgi Mzhavanadze: Thank you, Joanna.