The government must take action to reduce the number of smokers in the country and solve potential social problems created by the enormous number of smokers.
The Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) estimates there are currently about 60 million smokers in Indonesia.
The foundation’s coordinator, Tulus Abadi, said on Sunday that 427,000 people died of smoking related diseases this year.
He said the number would increase next year if the government refused to take action to reduce the number of smokers.
“The government should ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC], as a commitment to reducing the number of smokers in the country,” he said.
Tulus said Indonesia was the only country in Asia that had not ratified the convention.
Once the convention is ratified, the signatory is bound to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco consumption.
Article 13 of the WHO’s convention requires signatory countries to initiate a blanket ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
The Health Ministry’s spokeswoman, Lily S. Sultistyowati, said through a press release on Saturday that the ministry had been working towards the preparation for a bill on the convention’s ratification. However, she did not specify when the bill would be complete.
The Health Ministry’s Director General for Disease Control and Environmental Health, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, said the government had now been preparing a gubernatorial regulation requiring the cigarette industry to put health warning pictures on each cigarette packet.
“We will discuss what type of pictures are suitable for the packets with stakeholders,” he said.
Cigarette packets in Thailand are covered with graphic photos of smoking related problems to discourage people from buying them.
Tjandra expected the ministry would issue the regulation by May 31 next year, which would coincide with World No-Tobacco Day.
Meanwhile, secretary of the Indonesian Cigarette Industry Forum (Formasi), Johanes Paulus Suhardjo, said the government should issue policies that would not affect small-scale cigarette producers.
“The government’s policies should give the small cigarette industry room for survival because its endurance will impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers and their families,” he said.
This year, the state’s income from cigarette tax was Rp 48.44 trillion (US$5.13 billion) as of Nov. 13. (nia)