Constitutional Court Ruling a Victory for Anti-Tobacco Activists, 01/11/11

The Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday on the finality of three articles of the 2009 Health Law marking tobacco as addictive and concerning the labeling of cigarettes.

The ruling covered articles 113, 114 and 199 of the 2009 Health Law Article 113 rules that tobacco is an addictive substance, while 114 rules that factories producing or supplying cigarettes to Indonesia have to display warnings on the health effects of smoking on the package.

The last article, 199, rules that those who fail to display health warnings on cigarette packages are liable to five years in prison or a fine of a maximum of

Rp 500 million ($56,000).

The rulings were a victory for anti-tobacco activists since the legal battle started in April 2010, when Bambang Sukarno, a legislator from the tobacco growing hub of Temanggung, Central Java, challenged the 2009 Health Law.

Cigarettes have long been a controversial issue in Indonesia. Earlier this year, a study by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease found the country had become home to the third-largest population of cigarette consumers in the world.

Indonesia has some of the lowest tobacco tax rates and the cheapest tobacco products in the world, and the number of smokers in the country has steadily


Some 65 million Indonesians smoke, with 40 percent of them illiterate and 60 percent poor. In the last decade, the rate of smoking among 10-to-14-year olds

has grown from 9.5 percent to 17.5 percent.

The government has been reluctant to impose strict controls on tobacco. The industry generates significant tax revenue, and it is one of the nation’s

major employers.