World No Tobacco Day May Blip Under the Radar in Indonesia
Graphic health warnings on cigarette packets are not a priority for the Indonesian government.
Nor is curbing misleading terms such as “mild”, “light”, or “low tar” that contradict the real damage that every cigarette does.
World No Tobacco Day on May 31st will be a blip on the radar of one of the last countries not to adopt the World Health Organisation’s’, (WHO), Protocol- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, (FCTC).
Tobacco control advocates in the ASEAN region are gravely concerned that the region’s governments are delaying implementing their commitments under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The South East Asian Tobacco Control Alliance, (SEATCA), said Indonesia has not ratified the FCTC and is lagging far behind other ASEAN countries in tobacco control measures, which gives plenty of room for tobacco companies to practice double standards and exploit vulnerable minors and poor people.
“For example Indonesian companies, such as PT Sampoerna,(owned by Philip Morris International), Gudang Garam and Djarum are exporting their cigarettes packs to Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia with graphic warnings. However they don’t use graphics to educate illiterate Indonesia smokers, instead use attractive packaging to attract more young smokers,” said Joy Alampay, Senior Communications Manager for SEATCA.
This year’s theme for World No Tobacco Day is, “Tobacco Health Warnings”, where the WHO implores governments to “show the truth” because “picture warnings save lives”.
SEATCA is urging ASEAN governments to fulfill their international obligations and protect public health by applying graphic warnings on cigarette packs through enacting strong tobacco packaging and labeling laws.
But Indonesia has no plans to adopt the WHO protocol.
Indonesia currently uses some warnings on packs and advertising, but they are brief and always overshadowed by articulate designs that communicate a prominant smoking message.
Indonesia remains the last few countries in Asia where tobacco advertising can still be seen on television, billboards, lamp posts and bus stops, and that sponsors rock bands to catch the young.
Pepet Maniez, a long time smoker, talked about his views on warnings and the culture of smoking in Indonesia:
“If have pictures on the cigarettes, I think it’s not effective. Because the box already has a warning. Not for educating long time smokers anyway. But maybe it’s more effective for teenagers because many young smokers always see sponsers and advertising images on television to get new smokers. If beginners see negative images maybe they will think twice about smoking. I started in 1978 when I was 11. So I can’t stop now. My friends and uncle, other family members all smoked so I would like to try. The first time I took my grandpa’s cigar. I used to watch him smoke. My school friends and my community talked about smoking, that it was macho. They made an image of smoking so I tried. If a male doesn’t smoke he is seen as feminine. A banshee. It was also peer pressure that made me try. C’mon smoke, try it, it’s nice it’s gentle. Or they apply pressure and say, you must smoke. I think young people today still have the same pressure from friends and images on tv. They will follow the dominant friend. Also in Indonesia children can buy one cigarette instead of a box. It’s accessible. If I had children I would not allow them to smoke. I would tell them it was bad and that they cant stop. Many Indonesian people didn’t know about passive smoking such as on the bus. Alot of people now know but don’t care. Even if there is a baby or old person near them. The knowledge about smoking around babies is very little. If they had a picture on the packets about that it would be educational for the parents and therefore effective. People might be more educated due to warnings, but it’s the culture here. Too many factories for cigarette manufaturing, so many jobs created by it. There aren’t enough no smoking areas either. Singapore is a good example of putting no smoking areas, but it’s not effective here. Too many people smoke and won’t follow the rules. The majority of cases started to smoke because of community. If you are a young person like the boys in the picture [above], no-one will say anything if you’re smoking out in public. It’s peer pressure and a culture of acceptance.”
Joy Alampay, Senoir Communications Manager SEATCA
Pepet Maniez, Palembang Resident
South East Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) Press Release
World Health Organisation (WHO)