Indonesia Needs to Kick Its Bad Tobacco Habit

It is no secret that the tobacco industry possesses strong influence in the nation’s corridors of power. For more than 40 years, the industry has had a cozy relationship with those in high places, allowing it to enjoy some of the lowest taxes in the world and near total freedom in advertising their deadly products.

It is therefore no surprise that Indonesia remains one of only a handful of nations yet to sign the landmark World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

It is critical to the future of this nation that tobacco products do not fall into the hands of our young people. Many surveys have shown that instead of slowing down, the growth of tobacco consumption among the country’s youth is fast rising. (

It is critical to the future of this nation that tobacco products do not fall into the hands of our young people. Many surveys have shown that instead of slowing down, the growth of tobacco consumption among the country’s youth is fast rising. (

Though 171 countries have moved to protect their people from the harmful effects of smoking, Indonesia is not in a rush to join them.

The cost of inaction? More than 200,000 Indonesians die every year from tobacco-related diseases, according to this year’s Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health (APACT).

The losses are even greater in terms of the cost of medical treatments needed and decreased productivity.

The industry’s deadly grip on the nation and its people was supposed to be broken when the government passed the landmark Health Bill in 2009.

But a year has now passed and the Health Ministry is still yet to pass the necessary regulations needed to support the law, thus leaving it essentially toothless.

Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih has said some points from the draft regulation on tobacco control, including a total ban on tobacco advertising, pictorial warnings on cigarette packets and an expansion of smoke-free areas, were still being discussed by the various ministries involved.

While she said she was still hopeful the draft would be finalized by the end of the year, she conceded some key points had not been agreed upon yet.

Such lengthy delays will naturally raise suspicions that the tobacco industry is exerting its influence in the halls of power.

Why else would it take more than a year to pass the regulations needed to make the law effective?

To be sure, there are several major points in the ministry’s draft regulation which, when issued, would deal the biggest blow the local tobacco industry has ever received.

These include requiring tobacco companies to display information about the health effects of their products and restrict what substances they can put into their products.

It would also ban sales of individual cigarettes, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, as well as provide a basis for the expansion of smoke-free areas.

It is critical to the future of this nation that tobacco products do not fall into the hands of our young people. Many surveys have shown that instead of slowing down, the growth of tobacco consumption among the country’s youth is fast rising.

The government must take a more farsighted view by sacrificing short-term tax revenues for longer-term objectives. If it plans well, this transition will not be as painful as currently envisioned.

source: thejakartaglobe.com

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