Post D: Government financial dependancy on the tobacco industry

The tobacco industry in Indonesia is deeply intertwined into the financial structures of the government, making it challenging to encourage people to quit smoking. The taxes placed on cigarettes attributed to nearly 10% of the total government revenue in 2002 (Danardono, Nichter, Ng, Padmawati, & Prabandari 2009). The industry employs over 11 millions citizens, being the second largest employer after the government. It also plays a role in sponsoring a majority of the nations social, cultural and sporting events, and even offers scholarships to students to attend colleges. In Yogyakarta the tobacco companies provide the government with ‘social contributions’, that finance the construction of public features such as, city gardens, bus shelters and street lighting (Danardono et al. 2009). Targeting the financial structures of this breadth and depth, makes it intrinsically rooted into the lives of Indonesian people. 

‘I sympathise with the idea of getting people to stop smoking, but for now the cost is too high’’

– Indonesian Minister of finance (Danardono, Nichter, Ng, Padmawati, & Prabandari 2009, p. 98)

In Yogyakarta, tobacco culture is heavily prevalent. Shop fronts are littered with adverts, billboards plastered with campaigns, and citizens smoke freely, with few restrictions placed on smoke-free areas (McCall 2014). Tobacco company, Kraton Dalem, uses the deeply historic emblem of the Saltan palace for their packaging, and a yearly competition is run, offering the grand prize of a pilgrimage to Mecca (Danardono et al. 2009). Doing so, the tobacco industry embeds itself in the history, culture and religion of the city, making it a source of national pride, encouraging spending. Despite this saturation, anti-tobacco movements are arising across the city. In 2017, a mural was put up as a community project, encouraging people to reject the tobacco industry (MTCC 2017). These murals were painted in bright luminescent paints that glow under ultraviolet lights, sparking conversation and worldwide recognition. 

‘Show your true colours’ community project, encouraging the citizens of Yogyakarta to reject the tobacco industry, through colourful painted murals (MTCC 2017)

You cannot use the economic impact of Australia’s tobacco policy changes as a prediction for how it would effect Indonesia, as Australia is of a privileged position, being a developed nation. However Australia’s anti-smoking journey can be used as an example of the possibility for change. Fear that media revenue in Australia would be at a loss when bans were placed on cigarette advertising in 1976, were later subsided, as these spaces were quickly filled with other adverts (The Cancer Council 2019). Similarly for the impact on income, for hospitality venues and small business owners. While the tobacco industry does provide financial gain, it should be considered the impact smoking has on the health system. It is predicted that non-communicable diseases will cost Indonesia up to US$4.5 trillion from 2012-2030 (Bernaert, Bloom, Candeias, Cristin, Chen, McGovern & Prettner 2015). There is no denying changes in government policies regarding the tobacco industry would have a negative financial impact, however the further embedded it becomes in their culture, the harder it will become to remove.

Map of Yogyakarta, plotting key features of the city that are targeted/funded by the tobacco industry, to encourage tobacco culture

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