The FINANCIAL — Representatives of the Georgian hospitality sector welcome the initiative to create non-smoking zones in cafes and restaurants.
Although this law was first introduced in 2008 and voted in in 2010 it is still not working as there is no governmental body that controls it.
It is not yet decided who will monitor the hospitality sector, the Georgian Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Finance. According to the World Health Organization up to 2 million people in Georgia are smokers. Since 2007 Bloomberg Initiative, managed by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, allocated up to 150,000 USD to promote enforcement of strong tobacco control legislation.
“We cannot blame customers for the new requirement for non-smoking areas. Customers did not demand us to provide kitchens or parking. All this is created as part and parcel of the business and for the comfort of our customers,” David Sujashvili, Managing Director at the Association Global Star Georgia, told The FINANCIAL.
The only place that Natalia, 27, visits in Georgia is McDonalds, as Georgian restaurants typically do not have non-smoking sections. “My gustatory experience is so often marred by the smell of noxious, burning weeds,” Natalia told The FINANCIAL.
“Observing the law was never a problem for us. We have an isolated hall that fits fifteen where we tried to create a non-smoking zone. We failed to uphold the rule because of the absence of any official regulation. We did not know on which basis to forbid smoking,” Irina Tsertsvadze, Manager at Bar-Restaurant Prague, told The FINANCIAL.
“I myself smoke but I would be glad if smoking were to be forbidden throughout the whole building. Even with a good ventilation system, the smell of tobacco remains in the rooms and it is harmful to the health. Implementation of this new rule might reduce our customer numbers at first, but I think all businesses should be forced to adopt such a rule,” said Tsertsvadze.
Sujashvili from Global Star, however, said that representatives of the HORECA sector could take the initiative to create non-smoking areas themselves, without any directive. “But this is too unlikely in our society. Setting licenses in motion will be beneficial not only for the HORECA sector, but for the whole country’s image.”
Representative of restaurant Purpuri said that there was no demand to enforce tobacco control.
Purpuri plans to make a non-smoking zone this summer. “We will spend approximately 5,000 USD on creating a non-smoking zone and the restaurant will be closed for one month whilst this is going on,” said the restaurant’s manager.
Purpuri hosts approximately 100 customers daily. Out of the total number of guests only 20% are non-smokers. “After creating a non-smoking zone the number of our customers will no doubt diminish,” said the manager.
“It is preferable for such activities to be implemented on a step by step basis. We rarely find organizations that permit indoor smoking anymore. This played a big role in the start of implementing this culture. People got used to indoor smoking being forbidden. It would be good if the representatives of the HORECA sector were informed about this law,” Sujashvili said.
Sujashvili believes that industry professionals may have different ways of abiding by this law. “Some will just formally abide by the law and carry the symbolic name ‘non-smoking’. Others, who have sufficient space for it, will create isolated spaces for non-smokers. In any case, having an effective ventilation system is the determining factor. For small-sized buildings it is inconceivable to have such a ventilation system that will create a comfortable environment for non-smokers if smoking is allowed in the same building. In such places smoking will have to be completely forbidden, or they will have to do serious building works, which is of course connected with big expenses.”
American restaurant Elvis offered a non-smoking area from the very day of its opening. “Elvis is an international brand and we decided to act in accordance with international standards. The first floor in our restaurant is non-smoking,” said Avtandil Mikaia, General Manager at Elvis.
“I myself am a non-smoker and as a parent I would not like my child to be a second-hand smoker. Freedom of choice must be the number one priority for the service sector,” Mikaia said.
“I do not think that this law will reduce the number of smokers. Smoking is a habit that cannot easily be changed,” believes Tsertsvadze, Prague.