Students join movement against cigarette ads

A group of young teenagers gathered around a stall, all smiling as their classmates hammered a banner in front of a photocopy kiosk. The colorful new banner reads, “Protect Children from Cigarette Advertising”.

Nearby, Sheila Fervita, a 14-year-old student is posting stickers near an ojek (motorcycle taxi) base, the stickers read, “Creative teenagers refuse to become targets of cigarette advertising”.

“We know that cigarettes are dangerous, especially for teenagers that still have bright futures ahead of them,” said the young girl. “By doing this I hope that my friends and I will cease to become targets of cigarette advertising.”

In celebration of National Heroes Day, students from SMPN 117 state junior high school in East Jakarta took action against cigarette advertising within the vicinity of schools by physically taking down all the banners promoting cigarettes which were placed in stores and stalls near their school.

Since June, students of the SMPN 117 have cooperated with neighborhood leaders and the Children Media Development Foundation (YPMA), a non-governmental organization that focuses on media education, to inform stores and stalls near their school of the dangers of cigarette advertisements.

The Jakarta administration has banned outdoor cigarette advertisements throughout the city, issuing Gubernatorial Regulation No. 1/2015 on the prohibition of cigarette and tobacco product advertisements in outdoor media. But, as is the case with many other regulations issued throughout the country, it is merely a paper tiger.

In addition to taking down cigarette advertisements, the students came up with an initiative to create replacement banners for the stalls. The new banners include slogans that speak out against cigarette advertising and are custom made for each store.

Imam, the owner of a store located directly across from the school said that he fully supports the campaign. “I think it’s great that the students are aware of the dangers of smoking,” he said.

Anas Bakri, chief of neighborhood unit RT 008, who acted as mediator between the students and store owners, expressed hope in the idea that he could stop children and teenagers from being exposed to cigarettes and smoking at such an early age.

“It saddens me to see children smoking. I know a lot of students use up all the transportation money their parents have given them to buy cigarettes. They go home on trucks instead,” said Anas. “I’m glad that SMPN 117 have become a pioneer for this movement. This is something that our neighborhood can be proud of.”

SMPN 117 is part of a community called Schools Without Cigarette Advertisements (STAR). Similarly, the IT Arrahman school in Menteng Atas and SMPN 104 in Manggarai have taken down cigarette advertisements near their respective schools over the past two weeks.

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