Indonesia: The tobacco industry reaps double benefits from children #SaveSmallHands

30 August 2021

Source: Emancipate Indonesia

Today, Emancipate Indonesia and Lentera Anak Foundation disseminated the study results on how the tobacco industry reaps benefits from upstream to downstream through child labour and child smoker.

Upstream, the tobacco industry reaps benefit from tobacco leaves that are grown, harvested, dried, and processed by the small hands of children working in indecent, unhealthy working conditions, and with very low wages.

Downstream, the tobacco industry reaps benefit from tobacco products advertising which targets children to develop their market. The tobacco industry in Indonesia is inseparable from controversies and problems related to children’s rights.

To date, the tobacco industry has not accepted its responsibility for the high number of child labour in tobacco plantations in its supply chain. Child labour in tobacco plantations has the potential to be exposed to short-term and long-term health risks, one of them is the threat of Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS), which is which is a variety of health disorders caused by exposure to nicotine in tobacco leaves both during the harvesting and processing of tobacco.

In a cruel twist, the tobacco industry also takes advantage of cigarette sales through advertising, promotions, and sponsorships targeting children as their consumers. A number of studies shows that the exposure to cigarette advertising and promotions from an early age increases the positive perception of cigarette, desire to smoke, and re-encourage smoking after quitting.

It is in line with a study from Prof Dr Hamka Muhammadiyah University (2007) which shows that 46.3 per cent adolescents acknowledge that cigarette advertising influences them to start smoking, and a study from the Surgeon General of the United States which concludes that cigarette advertising encourages children to try smoking and perceive smoking cigarette as a normal conduct.

This condition is one of the reasons which trigger the increase in number of child smokers in Indonesia. The prevalence of child smokers between 10-18 years old continues to rise each year, from 7.2 per cent in 2013 to 9.1 per cent or 3.3 million children in 2018 (Riskesdas 2018).

The latest study from Emancipate Indonesia and Lentera Anak Foundation in 2021 explains how the tobacco industry reaps double benefits from children. Nadya Noor Azalia LL.B, LL.M., Research & Development Specialist Emancipate Indonesia, presents the current conditions of child labour in tobacco plantations that are not significantly different from the conditions of child labour in tobacco plantations as documented in the Indonesia Human Rights Watch Report in 2016.

Such matter is explained by Nadya in the Dissemination of “The Tobacco Industry Reaps Double Benefits from Children: #SaveSmallHands” which is held online, in Jakarta, today (24/08/2021) According to Nadya, the first condition is that economic and localized factors remain to be the main cause of the involvement of child labour in tobacco plantations.

For their parents, the involvement of child labour helps to reduce family expenses and to pay for their children’s pocket money. In general, children are accustomed to accompanying their parents to work on curing tobacco leaves since Elementary School, and work in the tobacco plantations during harvest season. Second condition, farmer and child worker respondents of this study are not aware of GTS as well as occupational health and safety risks faced by children.

A number of respondents admitted that there had never been any information dissemination regarding occupational health and safety as well as prohibition on the involvement of child workers in tobacco plantations. The respondents also stated that the company sometimes visited their area to control the production process, quantity and quality of tobacco leaves, but never stated that they would not buy tobacco leaves if the farmers involved child labour in the production process.

Meanwhile, third condition, there is no significant change in the comparation of types of work, wages, working hours, and health risks of child labour between 2-16 and 2021. The types of work carried out by children in the study location include, among others, growing and caring for tobacco plants, applying fertiliser and pesticides, harvesting tobacco leaves, curing tobacco leaves and detaching tobacco leaves that have been oven-baked from sticks.

In one day, children can earn Rp. 7,000 to Rp. 20,000 depending on how many tobacco leaves to be cured. Nahla Jovial Nisa S.Kep., Program Manager Lentera Anak Foundation, presents the study results on child smoker which show that almost 100 per cent respondents (99.4 per cent) have seen tobacco advertisements.

Tobacco advertisements that are seen the most by the respondents are Sampoerna (40 per cent), followed by Gudang Garam (23 per cent), Djarum (26 per cent), and Bentoel (11 per cent). Nahla also explained that statistical result shows a link between the recall of cigarette advertisements and smoked cigarette brands. Thus, this study recommends policy on a total ban of cigarette advertising.

Meanwhile related to tobacco industry CSR, the study results confirm that tobacco companies in Indonesia prefer to implement CSR-Washing or using the term CSR to achieve their goals that are in contradiction with the sustainable development. Among others, maneuvering to gain public support through funding and membership in non-governmental organizations, such as the Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation which claims to prevent child labour in tobacco plantations.

The ECLT Foundation’s activities in Indonesia which is an avenue to enforce business principles and human rights, eventually normalize the exploitative practices of the industry towards children from upstream to downstream. Hence, study results of Emancipate Indonesia and Lentera Anak recommend the necessity of a synergy between the government, non-governmental organisations, society, and international community to stop and prohibit the exploitation and manipulation of tobacco industry which targets children, such as cigarette advertising, promotions, and sponsorships, including CSR and institutions funded by tobacco companies.

Some of the main steps that can be taken are by rejecting cooperation with tobacco companies, increasing the government’s commitment as a duty bearer to ensure the accountability of the tobacco industry in its business activities that are hazardous for children, and increasing collabouration between the government and civil society in enforcing business principles and human rights.

We hereby convey this press release. For further information please contact or open for the full study About Emancipate Indonesia Emancipate Indonesia is a foundation focusing on the issue of modern slavery, young workers, and gender equality.

Emancipate Indonesia conducts research, campaign, training, and advocacy through the meaningful involvement of youth participation. Emancipate Indonesia was founded in 2017 by youth in different cities as a follow up of its founder in the Students Opposing Slavery Summit in Washington D.C., USA.

About Lentera Anak Foundation Lentera Anak Foundation is an independent institution striving to advance and protect children’s rights in Indonesia to encourage the realisation of a child-friendly democratic country through education, advocacy, child, youth and community empowerment as well as study and research on children. Website