Child smoker rate alarming: KNPT
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Activists have lambasted President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo for his lenient approach to tobacco use.
The National Commission on Tobacco Control (KNPT) has said that while concerned about narcotics, the government is seemingly paying less attention to the negative impacts of tobacco on younger generations despite the fact that tobacco poses more harm to the young.
'There were 240,000 people in Indonesia that died in 2013 because of tobacco, meaning that 660 people died every day, or 27 people per hour. That number is more dramatic than narcotics,' KNPT commissioner Hakim Sorimuda Pohan said on Wednesday.
The problem is more poignant as children and teenagers suffer the most from the wide-acceptance of smoking in Indonesia, according to him.
Data from the Health Ministry shows there are 60 million smokers in Indonesia and that more than 3.9 million children aged between 10 and 14 become smokers every year.
There are also more than 40.3 million children aged 0 to 14 who become passive smokers because of the high prevalence of adult smokers, 2010 data from the Health Ministry shows.
But more alarming is the figure on toddlers and children who become active smokers.
According to the National Commission on Child Protection (Komnas PA), at least 239,000 children under the age of 10 have started smoking. In 2012, Komnas PA chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait said almost 2 percent of children had started smoking at the age of 4.
Despite the staggering number, Jokowi seems to be ignoring the problem, choosing to focus his attention on drugs instead, according to him.
'He repeatedly says that we have to fight drugs because 40 to 50 people die every day because of drugs. That number alone is enough for him to state the number over and again and again,' Hakim said. 'But what about the 660 people who die every day because of tobacco?'
Hakim said that nicotine was more addictive than morphine, which is a level 5 addiction, and heroin, a level 4.
It is also more addictive than alcohol, marijuana and coffee.
'The government says that it protects children while at the same time we enjoy cheap cigarette prices, making it affordable for kids to purchase cigarettes with their allowance,' said Hery Chariansyah, the executive director of an NGO focused on children, Lentera Anak Indonesia.
With a high prevalence of child smokers, Indonesia will not be able to enjoy the so-called demographic bonus, which is predicted to occur in 2025-2035, when the number of people within the productive age bracket is expected to be higher than the number of elderly people and children.
Hakim said that smoking caused stunted growth and lower IQs among kids.
Kartono Mohamad, the chairman of the Indonesia Tobacco Control Network, meanwhile, said that children exposed to nicotine grew up to be aggressive, rebellious and anti-social.
'If the government lets children smoke, then that means it is letting the country become stupid,' he said.
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