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Jakarta Post

Health groups blast govt for minimal progress in revised tobacco regulation

  • Budi Sutrisno

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, August 31, 2020   /   05:10 pm
Health groups blast govt for minimal progress in revised tobacco regulation Medical and health associations lambasted the government during a webinar on Aug. 31, 2020 for its failure to finish revising Government Regulation (PP) No 109/2012 to impose tighter controls on tobacco consumption, advertisement and related issues. (JP/Budhi Button)

Several nationwide medical and health organizations have urged the Health Ministry to accelerate the revisions to Government Regulation (PP) No 109/2012 on the safety of addictive ingredients in tobacco products.

The organizations said during a webinar on Monday that the draft revision that began in May 2018 should have been completed in a year, but that the drafting process seemed to have slowed down after eight interministerial meetings.

In accordance with Presidential Decree No. 9/2018, the draft revision targets the pictographic health warnings on tobacco products.

The Coordinating Human Development and Cultural Affairs Ministry has also asked the Health Ministry to review the regulations on online cigarette advertising and controlling the consumption of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), also known as vaping devices.

The revised PP on addictive tobacco ingredients appears in the 2020-2024 National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN), which includes a plan to completely ban cigarette advertisements, enlarge the health warning pictographs, strengthen smoking cessation services and reduce child smokers by 0.4 percent.

“The slow revision process shows the government’s lack of awareness about the urgency of controlling high cigarette consumption in Indonesia. The Health Minister should immediately complete his homework,” said Tubagus Haryo Karbyanto of the National Commission on Tobacco Control (NCTC).

Indonesian Society of Internal Medicine (PAPDI) chairman Sally Aman Nasution stressed that stronger control of tobacco consumption was even more urgent during the COVID-19 health emergency, given that smokers were more vulnerable to contracting the disease. 

"Strengthening regulations to control [tobacco] consumption is imperative,” said Sally, noting that the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases was increasing, primarily in connection with high tobacco consumption in the country.

Read also: Indonesia fails in tobacco control measures

Echoing Sally, Feni Fitriani Taufik of the Indonesian Society of Respirology (PDPI) urged the government to step up its tobacco control efforts, pointing out that several countries had banned tobacco sales and imports during the pandemic.

According to chairman Aru Sudoyo of the Indonesian Cancer Foundation, cigarette consumption was the leading cause of the high incidence of lung cancer among Indonesian men, with 19.4 cases per 100,000 population. Meanwhile, the overall mortality rate for both men and women in Indonesia was 10.9 cases per 100,000 population.

“The Health Ministry does not seem to take the situation seriously," said Indonesian Teachers Association chairman Unifah Rosidi, blasting the regulation for its lax control of cigarette consumption "while our children have very [poor knowledge] on the dangers of smoking”.

Separately, Indonesian Heart Foundation (YJI) chairman Esti Nurjadin said that the foundation had sent a letter urging President Joko Widodo to push for the revised regulation. She added that the YJI's letter to the President also expressed appreciation for the 2020-2024 RPJMN, which promoted public health.

Green Crescent Indonesia president Era Catur Prasetya underlined that regulatory policies on advertising, tobacco sponsorship, large pictographic warnings, pricing and underage sales bans  in many countries had proven effective in reducing tobacco consumption.

“The PP revision is also important so the [public] has access to skills empowerment and smoking cessation programs,” he said.

Representing the Alliance of Cigarette Victims at the webinar, Zainuddin, a survivor of laryngeal cancer from passive smoking, said that the revised regulation would help prevent “suffering” among young Indonesians.

“Our request is simple. We don’t want the younger generations to suffer like we have. We don’t want more victims like us. [...] Minister, you have a very large role to play in saving future generations,” he said.