Warsaw: Forum on Science and Tobacco Control

June 2023
On June 20, 2023, Healthy Initiatives organized and held a 5-hour forum in Warsaw on "Science and Tobacco Control in Eastern Europe". The hybrid event brought together 50 experts from Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan,and Poland who participated in-person and online.

The primary focus of the conference was to share the findings of the study conducted by Healthy Initiatives on the effectiveness of the HRP (Mendes' model) in tackling smoking epidemic in Georgia and Ukraine. Smoking prevalence in these Eastern European countries, particularly among males, stands at approximately 25%. One of the key reasons for remaining high smoking rates is lack of comprehensive and impactful smoking cessation programs, coupled with a lack of the harm-reduction strategy. The situation is further worsened by prevailing myths surrounding HRP and by neglecting successful experiences in countries like the UK and Sweden.

During the event, Giorgi Mzhavanadze, an economic expert from the Healthy Initiatives, presented the study's findings, which were supplemented by insightful comments from the Professor Kenkel of Cornell University and Volodymyr Dubrovsky from CASE Ukraine (Center for Social and Economic Research). Additionally, representatives from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, including the Institute of Pediatrics, Obstetrics, and Gynecology, and the National Institute of Therapy, shared their own scientific research on smokers’ behavior and the health effects of smoking.

Dr. Zurab Tchiaberashvili, a Georgian politician, diplomat, professor, former Mayor of Tbilisi and former Minister of Health, Labor, and Social Affairs, provided valuable insights into the situation regarding HRP implementation in Georgia.

Gunash Kamzaevi, in-country expert in Azerbaijan and Senior UX Researcher, described the challenges that Azerbaijan met in demographic and economic fields.

Participants unanimously agreed that a scientific approach was pivotal for achieving significant progress in tobacco control. However, they also acknowledged the need of a substantial effort required to ensure that science plays a central role in decision-making processes.

Following the discussions on Ukraine and Georgia, the conference attendees had the opportunity to listen to representatives of Kazakhstan. A planned study based on the Mendes model will be conducted in Kazakhstan in 2023 and 2024. Presenters from Atameken (National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan with legislative initiative rights) and the Institute of Economic Research highlighted the challenges faced by Kazakhstan in combating tobacco epidemic and expressed their support for research in this domain.

The conference served as a platform for exchanging views and discussing the achievements made in tobacco control. Eastern European countries discovered common problems and similar approaches in addressing them. Participants reached a consensus on the importance of strengthening the role of science in regulating public health matters, recognizing its potential to bring about the so much needed positive change to ensure saving lives and healthier choices.
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