National

Cigarettes in films must
be banned: Commission

The National Commission for Child Protection said Thursday that politicians had to ban the advertising of cigarette in movies.

"We demand that the House of Representatives insert an article in the bill on films banning cigarette promotions in movies," said Muhammad Joni, the vice chairman of the Commission. The Commission said the bill must forbid cigarette companies from sponsoring the production of films, ban scenes where actors are shown smoking and prevent companies from marketing tobacco brands in the film.

Joni said the current bill, if passed into law, would possess weaker measures on prohibiting cigarette advertising compared to the laws on broadcasting and the press.

"At least in both those laws, companies cannot display or broadcast cigarette products through their advertising," Joni said.

In the bill on films, Joni said, no article regulating the advertisement of cigarettes had been included.

The Commission has sent letters voicing their concerns and recommendations to the House and would try and arrange a meeting with lawmakers, Joni said.

Currently, politicians at the House are still discussing the content of the bill.

Observers have speculated that the reason Indonesia has not devised a law banning cigarette ads or promotions could be that tobacco companies pay millions of rupiah in tax every year. The government has issued a regulation banning cigarette ads at sporting events and during certain hours in electronic media, like television.

Heri Akhmadi, a member of the bill's working committee, said the committee had agreed to devise an article which would ban any advertisements or persuasive efforts to promote addictive products.

That includes narcotics, alcohol, and cigarettes, he said.

"The Indonesian Censorship Agency can later make specific recommendations about what can and cannot be shown during films," he told The Jakarta Post.

Heri said if the bill was passed, the Agency would become an independent commission.

"It would not be controlled by the government and its members would deal with complaints and suggestions directly from the people," he said.

Child protection groups have argued that children and teenagers - one of the largest consumer groups of films - deserved to be protected from tobacco advertising in films and encouraged to think about their health before smoking a cigarette.

"Currently, many films, even children's films, are being used to advertise tobacco products," he said, adding that many purposely targeted certain age groups.

"They are trying to find new consumers, with their current market dying, deciding to quit or not having the money to purchase their product," said Joni.

Tobacco companies have also been accused of trying to build brand loyalty by advertising certain products to young people.

"If someone starts smoking a certain brand at a young age, they are likely to continue smoking that brand in the future," he said.

Movies are an effective advertising tool because children and teenagers tend to be heavily influenced by actors, he said.

"Research has shown that more often than not, young people are persuaded to smoke because their idols or role models smoke," he said.

Smoking among younger generations in Indonesia is steadily on the rise.

The 2006 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, conducted by the World Health Organization, showed that 25 percent of males aged 13 to 15 had smoked. The percentage of women for the same age bracket was 2 percent.

The Central Statistic Agency (BPS) reported in 2004 that nearly 20 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 19 were smokers, higher than the 13.7 percent recorded in 2001.

The age at which people are beginning to smoke is dropping as well. The BPS reported that in 2001, the average age at which smokers began smoking was 15.4 years old, while in 2004 it was 15 year old. (mrs)

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