Supporters of tobacco control welcome the Health Ministry’s move to issue a new decree to ban tobacco advertising next year.
Recently, Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih said that the government was preparing a new decree on tobacco control, which would include extension of smoke-free zones, a total ban on cigarette advertisements in the mass media, restrictions of cigarette sales and cigarette package visual warnings.
Kartono Mohamad from the Tobacco Control Support Center said that the new decree would be important to discourage young people from smoking. “Currently, the tobacco industry is targeting young people as new consumers as it intensively attempts to regenerate its market,” he said.
He said he welcomed the decree because it would protect children and young people from advertising.
According to Kartono, the decree will be sufficient to start to curb tobacco consumption in the country for now, as Indonesia has not yet ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control ( FCTC ).
The convention, which has been signed by 168 parties, requires member countries to curb global tobacco consumption through a variety of measures in compliance with the convention.
Kartono emphasized that the decree would not be detrimental to the tobacco industry or farmers.
“In the United States, for instance, regulations to control tobacco are very strict. However, the tobacco industry survives there,” he said.
Tulus Abadi, a member of the National Commission on Tobacco Control, said the decree aimed to curb expansion of the cigarette market, targeting more to protect non-smokers to stay away from cigarettes.
He cited data from the 2009 National Social and Economic Survey, which showed there were 60 million adult smokers in Indonesia, with two out of three adults as smokers.
“Visual warnings on cigarette packages, for example, are very urgent because verbal warnings are proven as not effective,” Tulus said.
He added it was ironic that Indonesia included visual warning on exported cigarette packs as required by other countries’ regulations, but not on the domestic market.
Visual warnings include a picture of the blackened lungs of a smoker and of other impacts of tobacco.
Tulus said that the planned decree would be good for the implementation of the regulation on smoke-free zones, to improve air quality and ensure non-smokers rights to fresh air.
According to Tulus, the decree can also help the government to receive greater state income by increasing tax on tobacco.
“Right now, the industry is enjoying the greatest financial gains. The government can get significant additional revenue by increasing tax on cigarette sales,” he said.
The Alliance of Indonesia Tobacco Society, which represents the tobacco industry, could not be reached on Wednesday. ( lnd )