Tobacco taxation and illicit tobacco in Georgia
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Tobacco Control Alliance in Georgia, Georgia
FCTC Implementation and Monitoring Center in Georgia, Georgia
Publication date: 2019-03-26
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2019;5(Supplement):A131
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The limited research has been undertaken on tobacco taxation and illicit tobacco trade levels in Georgia. Taxation policy has responsiveness to tobacco control policies in Georgia, because of the FCTC and EU Associate membership obligations. These taxes are a critical tool in reducing tobacco consumption and improving public health status in Georgia. However, the tobacco industry claims that tobacco tax increases will drive up illicit tobacco trade. There is needs to inform decision makers regarding win win policy study in Georgia.

We analyzed different statistical and survey data, also legislation, policy documents to learn the current situation related to taxation policy and tobacco illicit trade. Institute of Social Statues and Analyses (ISSA) together with the University of Cape Town conducted household survey In 2017, in five regions in Georgia. The survey was conducted with 2997 households to ascertain smoking prevalence, purchasing behavior and perceptions around illicit tobacco trade. Smokers were also asked to show available cigarette packs, which were examined for the presence of tax stamps and health warnings to identify products not intended for the Georgian market.

In general, illicit trade rate in Georgia was very high when country had lowest tax rates on tobacco products. The main reason for the increased illegal turnover was high level of corruption until 2004. After reforms inside financial institutes the level of illegal tobacco deceased dramatically. Tobacco industry and their front groups still spreading misleading information. But after ISSA survey results, we defined that illicit cigarette trade in Georgia is low (1.5%), but there are regional differences. Most of the illicit packs were detected the Zugdidi region where the prevalence of illicit reached 6%, while the majority of illicit cigarettes were purchased in kiosks or at informal outlets.

Tobacco tax rate is very law to compare with EU requirements. Despite recent increases of tobacco taxes, the illicit cigarette trade penetration of Georgia is negligible. Strong administrative measures, presence of SICPA control and ban of tobacco sales at kiosks and informal outlets would allow better control of illicit market and could address the persistent issue of illegal single cigarette sales.

Cancer Research UK (IRMA Number 30845).