No excuse for tobacco industry not to comply with pictorial health warnings, says activists

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), a regional network of anti-tobacco advocates, says it fully supports the Indonesian public health community in its fight against the health impact of tobacco use and is calling on the tobacco industry to comply with pictorial health warning regulations in the country.

“The Indonesian tobacco industry has no excuse but to be 100 percent compliant with the government’s regulations. Anything less than 100 percent compliance is breaking the law,” SEATCA senior policy advisor Mary Assunta said in a release made available to The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

She urged the government to step up enforcement to ensure the law

was fully implemented. The authorities must send a firm, clear message that Indonesia is very serious about law enforcement and protecting the welfare of its people, particularly children.

Studies show that pictorial health warnings are more effective than text- based warnings in reducing tobacco use, particularly in preventing children from starting this lethal habit.

According to official data, 10,800 children between the ages of 10 and14 have started smoking in Indonesia. Every year, 3.9 million new smokers are added to the current 65 million in the country.

“The tobacco industry in Indonesia has the longest implementation time in Asia – 18 months. During the time, 285,000 people died of tobacco- related diseases in the country,” said Assunta.

“June 24 is the deadline and the industry must be compliant, but it looks like it has no respect for the law or the Indonesian people,” she added.

In other ASEAN member countries, pictorial warnings have been introduced in a much shorter time frame, namely six months in Brunei and Singapore and one year in Malaysia and Vietnam.

“Tobacco companies in Indonesia have been exporting cigarette packs with pictorial warnings to Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore over the past 10 years; so, they have no excuse at all,” said Assunta. (ebf)