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Jakarta Post

Cigarette smoking? It'€™s all in your mind, minister says

  • Elly Burhaini Faizal

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, October 16, 2013   /  02:18 pm

It seems that only through the unthinkable '€” expensive cigarettes and strictly enforced smoking bans '€” can Indonesians quit smoking.

This is what can be expected in Indonesia amid its ongoing effort to fight smoking. However, in a country that is ranked as the sixth largest tobacco producer in the world, the issue is more complex.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) Indonesia Report 2011 said that the proportion of adult male smokers in Indonesia had increased to 67.4 percent in 2011, up from 53.9 percent in 1995. More worrying was that 40 percent of 13-to-15-year-old adolescents in Indonesia also smoked, up from 20.3 percent in 2010 and from 7.1 percent in 1995.

Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said the increased use of cigarettes by teens reflected the constant effort of cigarette manufacturers to attract and retain younger smokers. '€œWe know from research reports and experience from other countries, that there are some reasons as to why people start smoking. First, because they see their family members, especially fathers, friends and peer groups smoking. Second, because they are attracted to fantastic advertisements depicting smoking as '€˜macho'€™, or '€˜sexy'€™ '€” not because they like it.'€

The GATS survey also said that 85.4 percent of the nation'€™s population was comprised of '€œpassive smokers'€, with 78.4 percent exposed to tobacco smoke at home and 51.3 percent in the workplace.

According to a 2007 study from the National Commission for Child Protection, 99.7 percent of teenagers have watched tobacco commercials on TV, 86.7 percent have seen outdoor ads for tobacco products and 81 percent have participated in activities sponsored by tobacco companies.

Existing regulations on tobacco control have not led tobacco manufacturers to decrease their cigarette marketing and promotion campaigns, as the programs increased the likelihood that young people would start smoking, Nafsiah said.

A series of reports linking smoking to premature death and the undeniable causal relationship between tobacco marketing and smoking initiation prompted the government to issue stringent regulations that restricting tobacco advertising in December.

In 2010, an estimated 190,000 Indonesians died from illnesses related to tobacco use, including strokes, tracheal cancer, lung disease and babies with low birth weights, according to the ministry. Tobacco-related deaths accounted for 12.7 percent of all deaths in the same year.

The Government Regulation No.109/2012 on tobacco control limits the size of outdoor-cigarette advertisements and the publication of tobacco ads in print media. It also limits advertisement times broadcast on television to between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Rob Moodie, a professor of public health from the University of Melbourne, said: '€œIt is obvious that cigarette smoking is a huge cause of premature death and suffering in Indonesia. As though it will get worse unless we can stop the influence of the tobacco industry'€.

Moodie added that an advertising ban was essential to curb smoking addiction, because advertising normalized behavior. '€œCigarette companies sponsor a wide array of sporting events; so, it becomes so much part of normal life.'€

The increase of smoking is also tied to the rising sales of brands marketed directly to particular communities, including women.

To fit the market niche for women, tobacco manufacturers convey messages through advertisements that feature a models that are slim and attractive to create subconscious associations.

'€œMarketing is dominated by themes with a notion that you smoke, you stay slim. It'€™s reinforcing '€˜Virginia Slims'€™,'€ said Moodie, referring to a brand of cigarette manufactured by the Altria Group, formerly the Phillip Morris Companies, that was introduced in 1968 and marketed to young professional women.

As Baudrillard said in Simulacra and Simulation, contemporary media are responsible '€œfor blurring the line between product that are needed and products for which a need is created by commercial images'€.

Controlling advertisements is one of three main strands of the nation'€™s anti-tobacco regulations, including the inclusion of graphic warnings on cigarette packages and the designation of smoke-free zones in public space.

The minister said that the regulations were aimed at protecting non-smokers and to prevent new smokers, especially young people.

'€œWe really want to see people stop smoking for their best, not ours, so they will not suffer from cancer, strokes or heart diseases,'€ Nafsiah said. '€œAdvertising works in our mind. They influence your mind because you see it everywhere and you hear it every time. This is very dangerous.'€

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