Efforts to ban cigarette ads continue-15/09/09

The National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas PA) said Saturday it would stop its campaign for an end to cigarette promotion.

“The commission will continue its campaign to ban cigarette advertising. We are trying to push the health bill into law before the current House of Representatives members finish their term,” said Cahya Shima Dewi, the commission’s communication officer.

Cahya said the commission was still demanding that lawmakers impose harsher measures on cigarette usage through the health bill.

“The Komnas is pleading for a picture of the effect cigarettes have on the lungs, like the ones used overseas, be placed on every cigarette pack,” she told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview.

“The bill should ban smoking in public places and tax on tobacco products must be increased as much as possible.”

The health bill was passed into law on Monday and contains only two articles on cigarettes.

Article 114 orders those producing or importing cigarettes to include health warnings while Article 115 regulates on smoke-free locations. There are, however, no articles on higher taxation.

Cahya said the commission would continue its efforts so that the tobacco control bill may be endorsed by members of the next House.

“According to lawmakers we have met, House members are divided among themselves about the importance of the tobacco control bill,” she said.

Cahya added that parents also had a responsibility to prevent their children becoming smokers.

“I call on parents who are smokers, please do not smoke in front of your children,” she said.

“If you want to smoke, please go outside or do it elsewhere.”

Cahya said children tended to imitate their parents’ actions; therefore, if a father or a mother smoked, a child would be likely to smoke too.

She said parents must be careful when taking their children to events sponsored by cigarette companies.

“We once went to a family event sponsored by a cigarette company. There were so many children’s games and attractions there,” she said. “Yet, to play the games, people had to buy packs of cigarettes before they got the coins to play. That is how cigarette makers indoctrinate our children that smoking is not a dangerous activity.”

Cahya said there had been encouraging results from the commission’s campaign, such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) edict which forbade smoking by children and pregnant women, and smoking in public places.

There had been disappointments too, though, due to the recent Constitutional Court verdict which favored cigarette advertisements as regulated by the Broadcasting Law, said Cahya.

The Commission lamented that the court allowed Niken Rahmat, Suwarno M. Serad and Gabriel Mahad to become witnesses for the government at the hearing.

The Broadcasting Law stipulates that witnesses should not have a personal interest in the case’s result. Yet, both Niken and Suwarno are cigarette companies employees. Gabriel also had a personal interest in a cigarette company, the commission said in a media statement.

Niken argued to the Constitutional Court that a cigarette was a legal product therefore it was legal to advertise the product.

Suwarno testified that the research which said cigarettes caused death might be invalid, since there were no death certificates specifying smoking as a cause of death, while Gabriel said there were already sufficient health warnings on each pack of cigarettes.

Despite its disappointment, the commission said it respected the four, out of the nine, judges who gave dissenting opinions on the verdict.

“These judges have given us hope in our efforts to protect children from the dangerous effects of smoking. We are touched and proud of the four judges because they have shown their support for children’s rights to health,” commission vice chairman Muhammad Joni said in a statement. (mrs)

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