Indonesia is one of the five topmost producers and exporters of cigarettes in the world (WHO, 2012). It is also the fourth-largest cigarette consuming country. So in what ways have they attempted to enforce anti-smoking measures and how effective have these measures been? How have they actually influenced the smoking epidemic in Indonesia.
I interviewed my cousin, Andrew, 32, who has been smoking for the past 17 years. Initially influenced by friends at the young age of 12, he did not like the initial effects it gave him, such as coughing and dizziness. It was at 15 when the addiction started, it was seen as cool and he dangerously thought he could quit at anytime if he wanted to, and shortly learnt that wasn’t the case. Children and teenagers learn about the health effects of smoking in school, however with so many people in their daily environments smoking, it makes them curious and difficult to take the issue seriously. In Indonesia, 51.3% (14.6 million) adults are exposed to tobacco smoke in the workplace and 78.4% (133.3 million) are exposed to tobacco smoke at home (WHO, 2012).
I wanted to investigate the effectiveness of anti-smoking measures that have been made in Indonesia and what people think would actually be effective. Andrew mentioned that the change of plain packaging to graphic images was more of a nuisance than effective. When he first saw the graphic images it did make him think of wanting to quit but instead he would just look for a packet that was plain instead. This reveals that graphic packaging may inform people of the extreme effects of smoking but doesn’t necessarily make them want to quit.
When smoking in public places such as malls were banned, he did smoke less, but it didn’t stop him completely. Even with new laws people tend to ignore the consequences because they know that no-one will truly enforce it upon them, and if they do they will move on to another place where it is allowed. Anti-smoking measures are not likely to move forward in Indonesia until the government strengthens existing laws and develops protocols for enforcing these laws. (Aditama, 2008)
Rather than quitting, Andrew has started smoking a ‘lighter’ brand, Esse, that promotes with descriptive deceptors that since it is ‘light’ it is not as bad as normal cigarettes. In Indonesia, the labelling restriction has actually reduced the proportion of smokers who agree that ‘light cigarettes are less harmful’ (Henriksen, 2012). Indonesia is still a long way away from solving the tobacco epidemic and should strongly consider work with the World Health Organisation framework on Tobacco Control.
- World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia. (2012). Global adult tobacco survey: Indonesia report 2011. WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia. 2012. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/205137
- Wilson, L, et al. “Impact of Tobacco Control Interventions on Smoking Initiation, Cessation, and Prevalence: A Systematic Review,” Journal of Environmental and Public Health, vol. 2012, Article ID 961724, 36 pages, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/961724.
- Aditama, T, et al. Linking Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) Data to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: The Case for Indonesia, Volume 47, Supplement 1, September 2008, Pages S11-S14
- Henriksen L, Comprehensive tobacco marketing restrictions: promotion, packaging, price and place, Tobacco Control 2012; 21:147-153.