Friday, August 12, 2005

Georgia - It's SMOKIN'

Let me start this entry with two quotes from Georgia with Armenia: The Bradt Travel Guide, Second Edition by Tim Burford:
Georgia has among the highest levels of tobacco use in the world with most men
smoking most of the time, as well as 28% of pregnant women and 35% of
breast-feeding women. An average 8,900 million cigarettes are consumed every
year in Georgia, 2,200 per capita, against a world average of 1,600 per capita,
and smoking-related deaths will soon account for about 20% of male deaths.
And another little gem from the travel guide:
However, when the Ministry of Health tried a poster campaign in Tbilisi all the
billboard sites were bought up at once by Philip Morris, manufacturers of
Marlboro cigarettes.
So, as you can see from the above quotes, Georgians like to smoke. They smoke all the time. They smoke while eating, driving, talking, walking. The smoke where ever they want, when ever they want. They can buy cigarettes very cheaply from black market dealers, and, if they are short of cash, they don't have to buy a whole pack. You can buy just one cigarette at a time if you would like.
One of the reasons I actually LIKE to go to McDonalds here (I normally loathe McD's) is because it is a SMOKE-FREE environment. It's almost like blasphemy to the Georgians to have a smoke-free environment, but for some reason they honor the ban at McDonalds. They also don't smoke while shopping in Goodwill, the large supermarket here, but the do smoke while sitting in the front of the store at the little coffee and soda cafe. They might not smoke in church, but I have not been in a Georgian Orthodox church yet, so I cannot say for a fact that they don't.
Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop? It's like walking into a fog. "Yes, I'd like some chocolate ice cream with some sprinkles and a layer of nicotine!"
Local grocery stores? "Look honey, each package of potato chips comes with a free side of ashes!"
Taxis? Forget it, your taxi driver smokes and he doesn't care if you don't like it.
Doctor's offices? Of course they smoke in there. While sitting under the "NO SMOKING" sign.
Restaurants? I have yet to go to a restaurant (with the exception of McD's, not that I really count them as a restaurant per se) that bans smoking. Usually David, Blaine and I are the only three in the restaurant that are NOT smoking. Waiters and waitresses look at us like we have 3 heads when we hand them back the ashtray and tell them "we don't need this".

Hotels? Smoke central. The Sheraton, where the US Embassy has their health unit, is a smokers paradise with ashtrays every 5 feet. Hell, people smoke in the elevators.
Now, I used to smoke. I loved smoking. LOVED IT. Miss it like mad. And I would smoke again in a heartbeat if I (a) didn't have an impressionable 3 year old with me almost all the time (B) wasn't pregnant and (c) didn't know how incredibly bad for me smoking is. But being in Georgia is almost like not having to be a reformed smoker. I passively smoke so much - I probably inhale more smoke here than I did when I was actively smoking. Scary, but true.


At 11/23/2005 12:05 PM, Blogger Anna said...

Smoking women in Tbilisi can be classified as belonging to either of these two groups

1. Wannabes from the provinces thinking smoking makes them look cool and Tbilisian

2. Socialites from Vake and Vera considering smoking cool

I still can't believe though that almost 1/3 of Georgian women are smoking and I have lived in Tbilisi most of my life. I would take this statistics with a grain of salt.


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