The Jakarta Post
The government will soon ban sales of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) nationwide amid growing concerns over the product's negative impact on people's health.
Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel said on Monday that sales of e-cigarettes would be banned in line with the concerns recently voiced by the Health Ministry.
'It has been deemed that e-cigarettes pose health risks and that's why we need to impose a ban,' he said.
There are no domestic e-cigarette producers. Consumers rely on imports from China, the inventor of the device that can stimulate the sensation of smoking.
When the domestic ban took effect, it would automatically halt the import of e-cigarettes, Rachmat further said.
The ministry does not provide figures on annual e-cigarette imports. Like elsewhere, a high number of Indonesian smokers utilize the alternative smoking device to help them quit the habit, said to cause various serious illnesses, including cancer, chronic respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases.
Indonesia, where one in every five people smoke, has jumped on the bandwagon worldwide to impose tighter anti-tobacco measures to curb smoking, which is responsible for the death of 200,000 people in the country each year, according to a WHO estimate. It has since mid-last year, among others, required cigarette manufacturers to print graphic health warnings on packaging.
WHO has not endorsed the use of e-cigarettes and regulating e-cigarette sales remains a controversy worldwide.
WHO said that e-cigarettes should be subject to much tighter restrictions on their use, sale, content and promotion.
The global health watchdog accepted that e-cigarettes were less harmful than conventional ones. But it argued that the risk they posed to people passively inhaling their vapors meant they should not be allowed to be used indoors.
Some countries, such as Singapore and Canada, however, have taken a firm stance on prohibiting the import or sale of e-cigarette products.
Among the health reasons for the prohibition were uncontrolled nicotine content and solvent abuse of the products and lack of information known about their additive impact, said Roy Sparringa, the head of the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) which, along with the Health Ministry, recommends the e-cigarette sale ban.
Nicotine is one of the source of dangers in cigarettes, which the WHO estimates are responsible for 6 million deaths on a yearly basis.
'E-cigarettes also often turn a beginner smoker into an active smoker,' Roy said in a text message.
The Trade Ministry's director general for standards and consumer protection, Widodo, shared a similar view, saying that a ban on sales of e-cigarettes would be necessary to protect the health of consumers from a number of dangerous substances added to the products. He further said that his office was finalizing a ministerial regulation to ensure the ban was effective.
The planned e-cigarette ban will become the second ban issued by the Trade Ministry. Earlier, it prohibited sales of low-content alcohol drinks, particularly beer, in minimarkets. However, following protests, it exempted some tourist sites, including one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, Bali, from the arrangement.