The Indonesian government plans to finish by the end of 2011 a new set of tobacco regulations intended to approach Indonesia closer to endorsing an international agreement on tobacco control.
The main discussions are held around rules related to tobacco advertising and compulsory image warnings on cigarette packaging.
Despite the fact that last year Indonesia adopted the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which sets the restrictions of tobacco consumption, the country remains the only one in Southeast Asia and probably one of the last in the world that has not endorsed it.
Currently the government is considering how best to meet all six requirements proposed by the FCTC. These requirements are related to cigarette tax, advertising, graphic warnings, smoke-free zones and anti-cigarette campaigns.
“The regulation has been discussed for about a year between ministers, tobacco industry and cigarette manufacturers,” Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih stated after the press conference.
“We decided that the draft will be issued as a regulation in the nearest future, and namely this year.”
Of the six components, Endang stated the graphic warning on cigarette package was the most complicated thing on which to conclude.
“We will cooperate with anti-tobacco associations in order to inform people as the government ponders over a partial ban on tobacco advertisements. The ministry should educate the public and minors about the smoking hazards,” Endang stated.
The ratification will be implemented gradually, rather than all at once.
Tobacco products have long been a disputable issue in Indonesia. According to a study, the country had become home to the third largest population of smokers in the world. Indonesia has some of the lowest cigarettes tax rates and the lower priced smoking products in the world that is why the number of smokers has significantly increased.
About 60 million Indonesians light up, with 40% of them illiterate and 60 % poor. The rate of smoking among teenagers has increased from 9.5% to 17.5%.
The KNPT representative declared Indonesians spent about of Rp 138 trillion ($15.2 billion) annually buying tobacco products. The nation also spends Rp 2 trillion per year treating smoking-related diseases.
He also stated that smoking was also responsible for Rp 105 trillion in lost productivity annually. The tobacco industry gains approximately Rp 60 trillion annually in taxes and duties.
“If we continue allowing people challenge this regulation, there is no way we can end it this year,” stated Kartono Muhammad, a leading anti-tobacco activist.
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