Headlines

60 million male smokers
in RI, says minister

A recent survey reveals that Indonesians are some of the top smokers in the world with 67.4 percent of men over 15 years smoking.

The “Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS): Indonesia Report 2011” also shows that about 60 million people or 34.8 percent of total adults were active smokers, confirming that the tobacco epidemic is still rife in the country.

Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said Tuesday she was anxious about the fact that over 67 percent of adult males are smokers. That’s an increase from 53.9 percent in the 1995 National Social Economic Survey.

“This figure shows that we have failed to protect our own people,” she told a discussion as part of the survey release.

The number of female smokers also increased to 2.7 percent in 2011 from 1.7 percent in 1995.

Nafsiah told participants that the Indonesian government was embarrassed to hear the findings.

“It means we have been defeated by the tobacco industry. This is unacceptable,” she said.

Apart from the increase in the number of smokers, GATS also emphasizes the high number of passive smokers, nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke. 133.3 million or almost 80 percent of adults are exposed to smoke at home.

“I want to convey a message to parents who smoke at home. The truth is you are killing your own children. Is that really what you want to do?” said Nafsiah.

Each adult smoker consumes an average of almost 13 cigarettes each day, 31.5 percent of which are kretek (clove cigarettes). Meanwhile, 2.9 million people use smokeless tobacco products.

Soewarta Kosen, one of the survey team from the Health Ministry, said that most smokers were already habituated before the age of 18.

“However, an eighth of adult smokers have started before the age of 15,” he said.

Indonesia was one of the only four countries in the region, including Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, to participate in the survey. GATS is the global standard for systematic monitoring of adult tobacco use.

In cooperation with the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization developed the standard survey protocol in 2006, using standard procedures on survey management, questionnaire development, sample design, and data collection.

In Indonesia, the Central Statistics Agency and the National Institute of Health Research and Development at the Health Ministry held GATS in 2011 as a national-level household survey financed by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

“It involved respondents aged 15 years and above both males and females,” said Agus Suprapto, chief of the Center for Community Empowerment, Health Policy, and Humanities. The survey using handheld electronic devices involves a total sample of 8,994 households.

While praising the Health Ministry for leading the collaboration, WHO Indonesia Representative Khanchit Limpakarnjanarat said it was also important to think of the report’s launch as just the beginning of bold efforts to control tobacco use.

“Today’s report will drive prevention policies for tomorrow, to prevent unnecessary tragedy and suffering in our communities,” he said.

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