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Jakarta Post

Big tobacco spurns ad bans

  • Gemma Holliani Cahya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, November 24, 2018   /   09:30 am
Big tobacco spurns ad bans Jakarta Public Order Agency personnel remove a cigarette billboard on a roadside in this file photo dated 2016. (Courtesy of Tempo.co/-)

Tobacco groups have demanded that the government withdraw bans on cigarette promotional displays in shops and kiosks in Bogor and Depok, West Java, in a move to stop budding initiatives to forbid tobacco advertising in the country. 

In a letter signed on Oct. 16, the Indonesian Light Cigarette Producers Association (Gaprindo) and the Indonesian Retailers Association (Aprindo) filed with the Home Ministry their objection to the bylaws issued by the two local administrations, arguing that the decrees had created legal uncertainty that may harm their businesses. 

Gaprindo chairman Muhaimin Moefti said the regulations were worrying because they were not in line with a regulation issued by the central government, which still allows stores to display cigarette promotional materials.

“We were shocked when we found out about the regulation, because as stakeholders we had never heard this information before,” Muhaimin told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The Bogor administration has since 2009 been trying to prevent children and teenagers from being exposed to tobacco products with Bogor Bylaw No. 12/2009 on smoking ban areas, including a ban on all outdoor cigarette advertisements. But it was only in 2016 that the administration started to effectively prohibit stores from putting cigarettes on display. Depok issued a similar regulation in September.

Bogor and Depok are currently the only two cities that have implemented a regulation to ban tobacco displays.

“Cigarettes are legal products, and according to Government Regulation No. 109/2012 on addictive substances in the form of tobacco products, they can be sold, promoted and advertised, including in shops and stores,” said Muhaimin.

Although the association, which includes large cigarette producers, had not counted the financial loss incurred as a result of the bans, the group’s cigarette merchant colleagues, including thousands of traditional retailers in Bogor and Depok, were anxious because the Public Order Agency could immediately close the cigarette display without even informing them in advance.

Indonesia, one of the world’s five largest cigarette markets, is the only ASEAN member country that has not yet totally banned tobacco companies from advertising their products in print media, television, radio and movies.

The 2018 Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) released on Nov. 8 shows that the prevalence of young smokers aged 10 to 18 in Indonesia increased from 7.2 percent in 2013 to 9.1 percent in 2018.

A National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) study released in September predicted that without strong tobacco control, the prevalence of Indonesian smokers aged under 18 would grow to 10.7 percent by 2019, 15 percent by 2024 and 16 percent by 2030.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended banning tobacco as one of the most effective ways to reduce cigarette consumption. But with pressure from the industry, the country has only implemented limited restrictions on tobacco, such as restricting TV ads at certain hours. 

The director of regional legal products of the Home Ministry’s Directorate General of Regional Autonomy, Sukoyo, said they had met with Aprindo and Gaprindo on Wednesday and he could understand the considerations of Gaprindo. 

“We are now still learning about the documents […] Whether or not there will be a revision of the regulations depends on the result of our comprehensive study,” he said.

The Bogor Health Agency’s health promotion division head, Nia Nurkania, said the complaint voiced by the groups was “an old song”, and they would continue to implement the ban that they believe protects the young. 

“We are not prohibiting [companies] from selling cigarettes in their stores, we are just asking them to take down the display and instead put up a sign that says they sell cigarettes there. The purpose was so youngsters were not exposed to the advertisements and cigarette promotions that are displayed in stores,” she said.

Nia said most malls, stores and minimarts in Bogor had followed the regulation. However, she said it was harder to monitor small kiosks in peripheral areas.

Lentera Anak Foundation said the bans issued by the administrations were a brave decision to save youngsters, who were exposed to cigarette advertisements almost everyday and still have relatively easy access to tobacco products.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Nov. 24, 2018, with the title "Big tobacco spurns ad bans".