Several high-school students who smoke have admitted they were encouraged to take up the habit after inhaling smoke from the cigarettes of their fellow classmates.
A senior high school student, who requested anonymity, said he had taken up smoking because his peers smoked.
“My father also smokes but that didn’t encourage me [to imitate him],” the eleventh grader said.
He said he spent about Rp 20,000 (US$2.13) to buy two packs of cigarettes every day. “I am now trying to reduce the number because cigarettes are costing me half of my daily pocket money.”
The 18-year-old said his parents had often told him to stop smoking, but they had not gone so far as to reduce his pocket money.
He said he had not been deterred by strict rules applied by his school against smoking and cigarette raids conducted by teachers.
A student at another senior high school said he found it difficult to stop smoking despite that his school had begun imposing stricter regulations to combat the practise, and a new decree passed by the city administration that stipulates that all schools are smoking-free zones.
The 17-year-old student, who requested anonymity, said his school had conducted raids to confiscate cigarettes and would warn students caught smoking or in possession of cigarettes.
“The school will suspend students for several days if they have received 25 warnings,” the eleventh grader said, adding that the school had put up several “no-smoking” signs.
He said he had been smoking for one year. “My father and cousin are smokers as well but I am not influenced by them.”
He said he typically smoked 10 cigarettes per day at a cost of about Rp 5,000. “I once tried to quit by chewing candy but that only lasted a few days.”
Another pupil, who also requested anonymity, spoke of his long struggle to give up smoking.
“I tried to quit but I could not resist anytime someone offered me a cigarette,” he said.
The 17 year old said he had taken up the habit out of curiosity.
“I was influenced by my peers. My father used to be a smoker and now my brother smokes too,” said the resident of South Jakarta’s Tanah Kusir subdistrict.
Since his school began imposing a tough antismoking regulation, he said, he had to restrain from smoking during school hours.
“My teacher once caught me smoking in a toilet. I have not smoked in school since.”
Chairman of the National Commission for the Protection of Children (Komnas Anak) Seto Mulyadi said parents’ indifference to the habit had encouraged students to begin smoking.
He said he blamed the growing trend among students on advertisements and sponsorship campaigns by tobacco companies.
“The city administration should seriously enforce its decree forbidding people to smoke in public spaces,” he said.
He added that the government was currently formulating a regulation to completely ban cigarette advertising. “Another solution is to depict the negative consequences of smoking on cigarette packaging, such as heart disease.”
The trend has been increasing every year. Data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) revealed that 25 percent of Indonesian children aged 3 to 15 have tried smoking cigarettes, and that 3.2 percent were active smokers.
The percentage of 5-to-9-year-old smokers increased from 0.4 percent in 2001 to 2.8 percent in 2004, the agency reported.
A 2007 survey by Komnas Anak found that about 8 million children in the country were smokers, 25.9 percent of whom had started smoking by the time they were 14. In 2006 the number of child smokers was 6.7 million.