Bangkok, 17 June 2019: Actions by the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics (KemKomInfo) to block online cigarette advertisements at the request of the Ministry of Health to protect Indonesian youths from being exposed to tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) were applauded by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), which urged other ASEAN countries to do likewise.
“The internet is the new marketing frontier exploited by tobacco companies to promote their harmful products. Given that Indonesia has the fifth highest number of internet users in the world, majority of whom are teens, this will help protect the youth, who are major targets of tobacco companies. All countries, especially in the ASEAN region, should establish and strongly enforce a ban on tobacco advertisements across all digital and social media platforms,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of SEATCA.
Comprehensive or non-partial TAPS bans have been proven to help reduce tobacco consumption, but in 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that only 37 countries had a comprehensive ban covering all forms of direct and indirect advertising media. Indonesia is the only ASEAN country that still allows direct advertising, but all ASEAN countries have banned TAPS via the Internet; enforcement, however, needs to be stepped up.
On 13 June, KemKomInfo Minister Rudiantara had ordered a crack down on websites containing cigarette advertisements, in direct and open violation of Article 46 of the 2009 Health Law, after the Ministry of Health made a request to block cigarette advertising online. KemKomInfo found at least 141 platforms – including Facebook, YouTube and Google – had violated the law, which bans images of cigarettes from tobacco ads.
According to a 2018 study by Polling Indonesia and the Indonesian Internet Providers Association (APJII), majority of Indonesia’s 117 million Internet users are aged 15 to 19 years.
To maximize profits, the tobacco industry invests billions of dollars yearly around the globe on TAPS to aggressively promote its deadly products and the social acceptability of tobacco use. A wide range of TAPS strategies are employed to directly and indirectly make tobacco products attractive and pervasive, targeting not only potential tobacco users like the youth, who are highly receptive to tobacco marketing, and current and former tobacco users, but also policy makers and the public, so as to artificially create the impression that tobacco use is normal and non-harmful or that the tobacco industry is a socially responsible corporate sector.
Just last month, Philip Morris International (PMI) was caught red-handed when Reuters exposed how it aggressively marketed its IQOS heated tobacco products on Instagram and other social media platforms, reaching millions of young people across the globe.
Tobacco use remains a leading cause of preventable, premature death, killing 8 million people annually worldwide. In Indonesia, around 66 million people smoke, including 66 percent of adult males and 35.3 percent of boys between 13 and 15 years old. More than 230,000 Indonesians are killed by tobacco annually, accounting for approximately half of tobacco deaths in the ASEAN region, where tobacco use kills about 500,000 people annually.
- Indonesia cracks down on online tobacco ads –
- Gov’t bans online cigarette adverts –
- Southeast Asia digital, social and mobile 2018 –
- Indonesia has 171 million internet users: Study –
- The ASEAN Tobacco Control Atlas – Chapter 10: Pulling the Plug on Tobacco Marketing and Tobacco Philanthropy –
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.