The number of young smokers has risen in the last decade, as tobacco companies have used cultural and sports events and scholarships under corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to reach out to young Indonesians, a survey says.
According to a 10-city survey conducted by the National Commission on Child Protection (Komnas PA), tobacco companies sponsored 1,042 events between 2009 and 2011, including 626 music concerts and 288 sports competitions.
During a press briefing on Monday, Lisda Sundari, a member of the commission, said that PT HM Sampoerna, PT British American Tobacco, PT Djarum and PT Gudang Garam were among the “worst offenders”.
The survey was conducted in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, Surabaya, Medan, Semarang, Denpasar and Palu.
Lisda alleged that tobacco companies used their CSR programs to create a positive image for the firms while promoting their products directly to young people.
Tobacco companies also used foundations to manage CSR programs that gave out scholarships, she said.
The Djarum Foundation, for example, has given scholarships to more than 7,000 students from 84 universities across the nation since 1984, she said.
“A senior high school in East Java even uses a tobacco company foundation logo for its badge on school uniforms,” she said.
“They are getting closer to children.”
According to the 2010 Basic Health Survey, 17.5 percent of all smokers in Indonesia were between 10 and 14, up from 9.5 percent in 2001.
Jalal from Lingkar CSR described the programs as a “philanthropy tax” that attached tobacco companies’ names to foundations to promote their brands.
Lisda said that tobacco companies began to sponsor events and scholarships for marketing purposes after the government banned television advertisements for cigarettes before 9:30 p.m. in 2003.
She said that most events sponsored by tobacco companies were open to minors and no one was required to show ID.
Contacted separately, the corporate communication manager for the Djarum Foundation, Renitasari, said that PT Djarum’s CSR programs were not designed to attract young people.
“We have a long history of CSR, even before the government mandated companies to do so. The foundation launched its first program in 1951 and ever since, we have tried our best to abide by every regulation,” she said. (aml)