Tobacco control advocates slam tobacco industry for “insulting” Indonesians

19 September 2012, Bangkok: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) today slammed the global tobacco industry for “insulting” Indonesia with its second consecutive World Tobacco Asia (WTA) 2012 exhibition in Jakarta, effectively treating the country as  a ‘fast developing market’ for its product that cause death and diseases.

SEATCA, a network of tobacco control organizations from across Southeast Asia, said the WTA is clearly exploiting Indonesia’s weak tobacco control laws to stage “an insensitive and callous event aimed at further hooking the region’s young and poor on the tobacco industry’s toxic products.”

The WTA website openly brags: ‘Indonesia’s cigarette market is considered the world’s fastest developing market. 30 percent of the 248 million adult population smokes which makes Indonesia the fifth-largest cigarette market in the world.

Indonesia is a recognized tobacco-friendly market with no smoking bans or other restrictions and regulations in contrast to neighboring ASEAN countries. In 2009, the Asia Pacific region added six million new smokers and will add another 30 million smokers by 2014.

“This is the 2nd time in a row that the WTA is holding its exhibition in Jakarta,” noted SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee. “We feel for the people of Indonesia. Allowing the WTA for a second time is a disservice to the Indonesian people. More than 200,000 are dying every year from tobacco related deaths and Indonesia has little regulations to protect public health. They are clearly being targeted by the industry.” 

According to the 2012 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), while there are about 60 million adult smokers, majority or 86 percent are also aware and believe that smoking causes serious illnesses. It also remains the only country in Southeast Asia that is not a signatory to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

While slamming the WTA, SEATCA also said the exhibition in Jakarta should also serve as a wake-up call to Indonesia’s policymakers. “The policymakers cannot keep ignoring the public health disaster on their hands. For as long as Indonesia keeps welcoming events such as the WTA, the tobacco industry will continue to see that as a license to exploit the country and its people, and to treat Indonesians as willing victims,” Ritthiphakdee added. (ENDS).