The Indonesian Tobacco market is one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world and is very quickly becoming a national health crisis. Bringing in an approximate $15.8 billion AUS to the country’s economy in 2018, the tobacco industry equates to 10 percent of the total Indonesian economic market. The revenue associated with the tobacco industry in Indonesia however diminishes in comparison to the enormous health costs associated. According to the Indonesian ministry of health, $62.2 billion AUS was spent fighting the health crisis in 2015, four times the amount of revenue generated from tobacco sales. So, if the Indonesian economy is losing copious amounts of money to the health risks associated with tobacco, why haven’t they implemented stronger laws imposing the use of the drug?
According to the World Health Organisations (WHO) report on the global tobacco epidemic in 2019, 62.9 percent of Indonesian men above the age of 15 are daily smokers. However, the statistics drop considerably with women, having only 4.8 percent smoke daily, equating to a national percentage of 33.8. The tobacco industry is also Indonesia’s second largest employer of citizens, behind the government, and frequently exploits cheap child labour under minimal health standards to grow and harvest the product. Many Indonesian families face strict financial situations earning an average yearly income of $5000 AUS, so any possible employment for a family to survive is a must. Most of these families work on Kretek tobacco fields, which is a blend of tobacco, cloves and other flavours to produce a ‘tastier’ experience for the smoker. In 2009, the US banned the importation and distribution of Kretek within the country in hopes that it would discourage youth from smoking. To put this into context, it is important to recognise how tobacco companies market a product under extremely loose Indonesian laws to popularise a ‘tastier’ tobacco experience, therefore increasing the use of the drug and the health risks associated. Indonesian’s under the age of 20 equate to 45 percent of the national population, so tobacco companies are eager to advertise, and often exploit their young impressionable minds into a culture that’s tobacco intake continues to climb.
Due to the tobacco industries considerable financial contribution to the Indonesian economy, few restrictions are in place for tobacco marketing and advertising. Newspapers, magazines, billboards and television advertisements of tobacco bombard Indonesian society, often influencing potential ‘new-comers’ that smoking can help you control your emotions, enhance your masculinity and uphold traditional Indonesian values while simultaneously promoting modernity and globalisation. Although the legal age for the distribution of tobacco is 18, tobacco venders often capitalise on younger individuals, illegally selling single cigarettes to minors for only a few cents.
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