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Jakarta Post

Your letters: Why is Indonesia too weak on tobacco?

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Mon, January 26, 2015   /  09:28 am

I am not here to argue the pros and cons of the death penalty, but I do think that the premeditated murder of people by a state apparatus is perhaps more pernicious than the original crime and involves the complicity of so many people.

Attorney General HM Prasetyo argues that 40 to 50 people die every day from drugs in Indonesia, but there are no official statistics on drug-related deaths, other than tobacco.

Even that data is dodgy.

So it is incumbent on the attorney general, from whom we expect rational evidence-based justice, to tell us where this data comes from.

And what does he mean by drugs? When I did post-graduate studies in toxicology we were often reminded that the world'€™s most dangerous plant was not the poppy, but the tobacco plant, which contains two toxins that had no legal limits for workplace environmental exposure: nicotine and isocyanates.

When doing factory inspections at a cigarette firm in Indonesia I was told that 1,200 workers presented at the factory clinic each day and that amongst those a large number were for spontaneous abortions caused by repeated dermal (skin) exposure and absorption of nicotine.

At that time, tobacco was responsible for 63 percent of global drug-related deaths: after tobacco come alcohol, which directly or indirectly was responsible for another 30 percent of deaths.

Of the remaining, 5 percent were due to medically prescribed drugs (iatrogenic deaths), while only 2 percent were due to illegal drugs. So are we getting hysterical about a non-problem?

In Indonesia 20 percent of adult male deaths are caused by tobacco and it'€™s estimated that reducing tobacco use could save from 1.7 million to 4 million deaths annually.

That includes people like the smokers'€™ kids and workmates, who are exposed as well. So may I ask, if Indonesia is tough on drugs why don'€™t they execute the boards of directors of all tobacco firms?  


Melody Kemp
Vientiane, Laos

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