Children overly exposed
to cigarette ads

A survey conducted by the National Commission on Child Protection (KPAI) has found that at least one in 10 Indonesian children decided to smoke after being exposed to tobacco advertisements, which the commission said should be totally banned.

The KPAI questioned 10,000 students aged between 13 and 15 in 10 provinces: Bali, Bandar Lampung, Central Sulawesi, East Java, Jakarta, North Sumatra, South Kalimantan West Java, West Nusa Tenggara and West Sumatra.

The survey, conducted in April, found that 96 percent of the students said they received extensive and rapid information about smoking from advertisements.

According to the survey, 15 percent of those exposed to tobacco ads decided to light up because of the ads. Some of them said they tried smoking when attending music concerts or watching sports or even participating in educational events sponsored by tobacco companies. “Cigarette ads are everywhere,” KPAI chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait said at the launch of the survey on Thursday.

 Most students said that they had seen a lot of cigarette advertisements on electronic media, outdoor billboards as well as at activities sponsored by tobacco companies, the KPAI said. According to the survey, 90 percent of respondents said they knew about cigarettes from television, 50 percent from billboards, 38 percent from pamphlets displayed on cigarette kiosks and five percent from radio.

Arist said that the government had actually issued a regulation limiting tobacco ads on TV — they may only be aired between 9.30 p.m. and 5 a.m. — but the regulation was hardly effective.. “The survey shows that television is still the main media by which students get information about cigarettes firsthand despite the restrictions,” he said.

The other problem, the KPAI said, was that many students often participated in activities sponsored by tobacco companies.

The survey found that corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by the tobacco companies had changed the students’ perception of cigarettes. Ninety-three percent of them said they had positive perceptions about tobacco companies after taking part in their events.

The male students said that they were attracted by discounts offered by the companies for buying their products on the spot, and also by sales promotion girls.

Meanwhile, the female students said they were impressed by the tobacco companies’ concern for the environment and social welfare. “Tobacco companies have succeeded in creating a positive image with these students so that they are more interested in smoking,” said Aang Sutrisna, a researcher for health issues at the Vice Presidential secretariat.

Arist urged tobacco producers to abide by the existing regulations and the government to totally ban cigarette advertizing to protect the country’s children. (tam)

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