18 June 2019
Jakarta. The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, or Seatca, on Monday called on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, to follow the Indonesian government’s step to ban all cigarette advertisements on the internet.
Last week, Indonesian Communication and Informatics Ministry announced an outright ban on all online cigarette advertisements. The ban is intended to reduce the number of youth smokers after an official request from the Health Ministry.
A study last year by the Health Ministry showed the percentage of youth smokers between the ages of 10 and 18 had increased from 7.2 percent in 2013 to 9.1 percent in 2018.
The Communication and Informatics Ministry also found 114 links on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube that violated the 2009 Law on Health, which prohibits “cigarette promotions that display the act of smoking.”
“The internet is a 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, the majority of whom are teens, [banning online cigarette ads] will help protect the youth, who are major targets of tobacco companies. All countries, especially in Asean, should establish and strongly enforce a ban on tobacco advertisements across all digital and social media platforms,” Seatca director Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo said in a statement.
According to a 2018 survey by Polling Indonesia and the Indonesian Internet Providers Association, the majority of Indonesia’s 177 million internet users are between 15 and 19 years of age.
According to Seatca, the tobacco industry invests billions of dollars annually on advertising, promotion and sponsorship efforts globally.
Meanwhile, tobacco use is still considered “a leading cause of preventable, premature death” that kills eight million people annually worldwide, the regional organization said. Tobacco use kills approximately 500,000 people in Asean countries every year, half of them in Indonesia.
Asean has 10 member countries; Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.