One week for companies to put graphic warnings on cigarettes

The Food and Drug Monitoring Agency told tobacco companies on Tuesday that they had to comply with a government regulation requiring pictorials on cigarette packs warning of the harmful impacts of smoking by June 24.

The Food and Monitoring Agency’s addictive substances monitoring director, Sri Utami Ekaningtyas, said that tobacco companies must register their products with detailed information on tar and nicotine content before the deadline.

That information will go into a database, which will be used as an instrument to give the agency greater oversight of cigarette distributors and their products.

“We will withdraw cigarettes from the market that were distributed without both written and pictorial warnings,” Sri told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday.

“However, we can’t withdraw products haphazardly. We need to follow a process. We need to assess, evaluate and coordinate with other related agencies,” she said.

Citing data from the taxation directorate general, Sri said that there were 3,392 cigarette brands produced by 672 companies operating in the country as of April this year.

She said of those companies, only four had registered their cigarette packaging designs with pictorial health warnings. She said only Bentoel, Sampoerna, Djarum and Gudang Garam had reported in line with the government regulation issued in 2012.

“They have sent their pictorial health warnings and shown a commitment to launch these cigarette packs on June 24. We are optimistic that other companies will follow,” Sri added.

According to the government regulation, tobacco companies should print five pictorial health warnings on their cigarette packs, covering at least 40 percent of a pack’s overall size.

These warnings show scary images of tobacco-related diseases such as mouth cancer, throat cancer and lung cancer. The health warning also shows two men smoking.

Health Ministry spokesperson Murti Utami explained that the pictorial health warnings being used in Indonesia were based on designs used in other Asian countries.

She said that the School of Public Health at the University of Indonesia had held a survey to select the five pictorial health warnings from 100 pictures. According to the survey, scary health warnings currently used in Asia would deter people from smoking.

The Health Research Center at the University of Indonesia also evaluated the effectiveness of written health warnings on cigarette packs in 2007.

The survey showed that most respondents had read the warnings, but 43 percent did not believe them, 26 percent were not motivated to quit smoking and 20 percent said that the writing was too small.

The study also showed that 76 percent of respondents wished to see writing and pictures as health warnings.

The survey showed that one-third of respondents even said that they would like to have scary and specific messages.

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