Activists’ Lawsuit Seeks to Stamp Out Illegal Smoking At Shopping Center, 06/10/11

Anti-smoking activists from the Jakarta Residents Forum have launched a lawsuit against one of the city’s largest shopping centers for permitting indoor smoking, naming the Jakarta administration as a co-defendant for failing to enforce its own laws.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan said the lawsuit filed by the activist group known as Fakta alleges that ITC Cempaka Mas in Central Jakarta and the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) have been negligent by ignoring Governor Fauzi Bowo’s decree banning indoor smoking.

“The regulation clearly states that smoking is banned indoors, yet in ITC Cempaka Mas there are many people freely smoking inside the building,” Tigor said on Wednesday.

The city’s environmental agency had failed to perform its monitoring function, he said. “BPLHD received many complaints, yet there is absolutely no monitoring, let alone control.”

Earlier this year, the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) published the results of a survey that found that scores of buildings in Jakarta still allowed smoking indoors, in violation of the prohibition. The survey, involving 210 restaurants, hotels and office towers, found that more than a third of the buildings were not in compliance.

Tigor said almost all ITC shopping centers in the city were guilty of the same violation.

“Mall managements often say that the people smoking indoors are recalcitrant tenants, even though if the management had the willingness to be firm, the tenants would certainly comply,” Tigor said.

Fakta had twice sent letters to the targets of their lawsuit before being forced to resort to legal action, he said.

“In the letters we warned of legal action, but we received no reply whatsoever,” Tigor said.

The lawsuit demands the operating license for ITC Cempaka Mas be revoked until management complies with the ban. It also demands that BPLHD publish a list of office buildings and malls still violating the law, and it asks the court to order both organizations to publish a public apology in three print media.

Some 70 percent of Indonesian men older than 20 smoke, and 400,000 Indonesians die each year from smoking-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organization.

The government has said it will issue new regulations by the end of the year to bring Indonesia closer to ratifying an international convention on tobacco control.