Much ado about puffing.
Anyone who is from the Americas or some parts of Western Europe will come to Georgia and notice that it seems like everyone is smoking. That guy crossing himself in front of the church- smoking. The parents watching their kids on the playground- smoking. That baby in the stroller- SMOKING. Okay, likely not the baby in the stroller, but it seems like it might not be out of the realm of possibility. Real talk is that around 1.5 million Georgians out of about 3.7 million are smokers and about 15% are underage. Also, 12% of Georgian schoolchildren are regular smokers, with 4% of schoolchildren claiming to have began smoking before turning 13.* All that to say that a lot of people, especially expats, end up frequenting locals that don’t allow smoking.
I’ll come clean here and let it be known that I have been known to have the occasional cigarette while drinking, but hate the smell of it while eating, being suffocated by it in bars, having clothes reek of smoke after a night out, etc. Call me a hypocrite if you’d like, but know I’ve definitely been called worse. Additionally, anyone that would like to come at me with the “don’t limit my personal freedoms” spiel, please do- I won’t have to argue, and you’ll just look like an idiot.
So, I already talked about the smoking culture here in my first 100 days in Georgia post. Honestly though, it’s pretty crazy compared to other places I’ve lived. I’m old enough to remember when there were smoking sections in restaurants in the US and remember thinking how dumb that was because if smoke is in the air, it’s not going to be deterred by an arbitrary seating section- ugh. Anyway, coming here and seeing people smoking in sections of the mall, in a lot of the restaurants, and considering my husband went to the doctor the other day and there were people smoking in the clinic(!?!), is all bit jarring.
When I started writing this, it was intended to help others find non-smoking restaurants and bars in Tbilisi in case they didn’t want to eat surrounded by smoke and unable to tell if their khinkali was covered in pepper or ashes. The big buzz now, however, is a new law that is supposed to be going into effect this summer that will make it illegal to smoke in restaurants in Georgia- at least that’s what I’ve been hearing. Obviously since I chose to write about it, I read up on it a little bit more. It turns out that there are two parts to it:
First, as of May 1, 2018, smoking cigarettes- even e-cigarettes- will be prohibited in all enclosed areas except for houses, psychiatric clinics, prisons, and casinos. Let’s just take a pause and say that the exclusion of psychiatric clinics is confusing, but I guess there might be bigger problems than smoking so we’ll let it slide.
Next, as of July 1, 2018, advertisements of tobacco products will be prohibited. This will definitely change the views while riding around town, since about 70% (my observation only) of the billboards around the river roads are for tobacco. Seeing all of the tobacco ads was pretty strange to me when I got here. For one, because advertising for tobacco products in the US was restricted in 2010, and because my time living in Germany my exposure to cigarettes was the giant warnings and gruesome pictures that were printed on the cigarette boxes themselves.
So, now everyone’s question is- how will this be enforced? Based on how I’ve seen some folks just straight up ignore the driving laws, I’m a little bit dubious that this is going to go seamlessly. However, there are some pretty strict penalties, though not always for the smoker. My understanding is that if someone is found smoking in a non-smoking location, that location can be fined 500 GEL and 1000 GEL if it’s a repeat offense. The fine for individuals is 100 GEL though, which is pretty steep.
What do you think? Will this ban be successful or a flop? What kind of problems do you forsee this causing? I suppose only time will tell.
Looking for more info?
Here is a link to an article from Georgia Today with more info and I’ll leave you with some of my favorite parts here:
“smoking will not be allowed in any kind of public transport, with the exceptions being taxis and motor boats.” MOTOR BOATS! Also, this still means that you’ll want to inspect your taxis before jumping in.
“In case a person smokes in an area of a multi-story house, which is classed as one property, he/she will be fined 50 GEL; and in case of repetitive violations - by 100 GEL.” I wonder how many neighborly disputes this will lead to...
“Smoking will also be prohibited in gas stations and gas distribution stations, as well as in buildings and facilities located in their respective territories where flammable substances are kept.” Um, I definitely feel like this should have stopped way before this law for common sense reasons.
And again, the “psychiatric clinics” part has me completely baffled.