The Health Ministry revealed on Thursday that a proposed ban on tobacco advertising would only be imposed in stages, as agreed upon by drafters of the decree.
Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih said it was unclear when the draft would be finished, but officials definitely wanted phased implementation.
“In discussions about the decree to implement the tobacco clause of the  Health Law, it has been agreed that we will not immediately impose a total ban,” Endang said.
The ministry, she added, would likely start banning cigarette ads and sponsorships at schools, concerts and events geared toward students.
The policy would also require tobacco companies to include health warnings on packets, with pictures of the effects of smoking-related diseases.
Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the ministry’s chief of disease control and environmental health, said he hoped the decree could be enforced soon.
“The decision is very new. Please wait for details,” he said. “I can only say that the ministry is hoping the decree will be imposed as soon as possible.”
Tjandra said officials agreed to the “gradual” implementation of the ban after stakeholders — including cigarette companies, farmers and factory workers — said the public should be informed about the decree first.
“Besides that, we need to prepare many things, so it’s going to take time,” he said.
Southeast Asian countries that imposed bans on tobacco advertising had done so gradually but transparently, according to Hakim Sorimuda Pohan, a former lawmaker who helped draft the 2009 Health Law. “They had clear timetables, mostly within six months,” he said.
For instance, it took Singapore half a year to impose a total ban because it had to deal with contract issues. “Six months is quite reasonable to resolve disputes about unfinished contracts with TV or other media,” Hakim said.
He said companies should be prohibited from renewing or initiating new contracts for tobacco advertising or sponsorships.
The proposed ban on cigarette ads comes amid intense debate about the hazards of smoking and sanctions that should be included in the Health Law.
In one controversial case, Bambang Sukarno, a legislator from the tobacco-growing hub of Temanggung in Central Java, asked the Constitutional Court to scrap Article 113 of the Health Law, which deemed tobacco an addictive substance.
Hakim, now a lobbyist for an anti-tobacco group, said if the court decided to strike out the clause, it would be ignoring hard, scientific facts.
“Discussion should have ended when the plaintiff admitted that nicotine is addictive, which he has. Other arguments become unimportant,” he said.
The lack of a court ruling on the matter, he said, made it impossible to impose a tobacco ad ban, since the draft decree would be based on the Health Law.