What if I told you that smoking was not a problem in Indonesia?
The effects of tobacco on the population are so subliminal in Indonesia that no further action is required, and a larger issue should be targeted more strongly; vaping.
Sounds crazy, right?
This blog thus far seems like insanity, but is actually representative of Head of Indonesian Food and Drug Control Agency (BPOM), Penny Lukito (Indonesia Expat, 2019). Ms Lukito is not alone in the vocal condemnation of e-cigarettes, and claims that “scientific findings that electronic cigarettes contain chemical compounds that are harmful to [the populations] health” (Indonesia Expat. 2019), while strongly denying comments by an Indonesian vape consumer association that “e-cigarette and vape are safer replacements for tobacco consumption (Xinhua, 2019). That statement would have been easy for her to deny as a government offical, as the tobacco industry brings in US$4 billion yearly, and is the governments largest source of income after oil, gas and timber. Not long after the Indonesian government (and many media outlets) inferred that ‘tobacco is healthier than vaping’, vaping-liquid and some associates products were slammed with a tax up to 57% (Amalia, A. 2019). Many health experts such as Hasbullah Thabrany, adviser for the National Commission on Tobacco Control commented on the new tax saying, “I do believe that the policy sides with the [tobacco] industry” (Agence France-Presse 2018).
If the head of a major government division in Indonesia is negating the effects of tobacco, the strength of their steer is evident, nay blaringly obvious. Thus, the core of the problem can be assumed as being of strong cultural roots, but can be swayed slowly yet strongly by the governments maneuverings. “The evidence suggests increasing pricing is the single most effective way to reduce demand,” says Vaughan Rees, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Christensen, J). The reduction of consumption is the goal, and while the cost of the product would be one key in achieving this, more methods must be used to boost its potential. Upon further field research and a more centralised geographical analysis, a different approach may be more successful than governmental intervention.
Teluk Kemang Sungai Lilin in South Sumatra is a small rural village and home to Aldi Rizal, who was a two-year-old chain smoker (Senthilingam, M. 2017). Six years on, Aldi has quit smoking and lives a healthy life with his mother Diana on the farm. What is interesting about Aldis journey to health was that it was not instigated by by authorities or government driven initiatives, but primarily western media. Now when I say the media was the golden savior for the 8-year-old, I don’t mean to say that they put him into rehab and nursed him to health, but rather it was all his mothers doing. Diana explained how she would try to resist giving him money to buy cigarettes, and would ‘steal and hide’ her husbands ‘100kg of tobacco leaf’ under the house so their son could not have any more cigarettes. This simple statement that the mother tried to prevent the action of smoking offers outstanding and invaluable insight into the Indonesian smoking conundrum;
Indonesian people know that smoking is unhealthy, but are not exposed to its unhealthy nature.
Agence France-Presse 2018, Indonesia accused of favouring big tobacco as vaping industry faces giant tax increase, Southeast Asia, viewed on 26 November 2019, <https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2130332/it-will-make-us-look-killing-machine-massive-tax-increase>.
Amalia, A. 2019, Still at war with the tobacco epidemic, Indonesia must control e-cigarettes too, University of Barcelona, viewed on 27 November 2019, <http://theconversation.com/still-at-war-with-the-tobacco-epidemic-indonesia-must-control-e-cigarettes-too-124432>.
Christensen, J. 2016, The 6 most scientifically proven methods to help you quit smoking, Hong Kong, viewed on 27 November 2019, <https://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/25/health/quit-smoking-6-most-valid-methods/index.html>.
Indonesia Expat. 2019, Electronic Cigarette and Vape will be banned in Indonesia, Indonesia, viewed on 27 November 2019, <https://indonesiaexpat.biz/news/electronic-cigarette-and-vape-will-be-banned-in-indonesia/>.
Jon. E 2016, Antismoking Coalition Gives Big Tobacco a Fight in Indonesia, ASIA PACIFIC, viewed on 26 November 2019, <https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/world/asia/antismoking-coalition-gives-big-tobacco-a-fight-in-indonesia.html>.
Malone, R. 2019, ‘The fourth largest market in the world’, Tobacco Control, vol. 26, issue 6, pp. 89-91, viewed 27 November 2019, <https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/tobaccocontrol/8/1/89.full.pdf>.
Nathalia. T 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, The Conversation, viewed on 27 November 2019, <http://theconversation.com/disneyland-for-big-tobacco-how-indonesias-lax-smoking-laws-are-helping-next-generation-to-get-hooked-97489>.
Senthilingam, M. 2017, Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic, Hong Kong, viewed on 27 November 2019, <https://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/30/health/chain-smoking-children-tobacco-indonesia/index.html>.
Sukamdi. Wattie, M. A. 2013, Tobacco use and exposure among children in migrant and non-migrant households in Java, Indonesia, Asian pac migr J. author manuscript, PMC funders group, Europe, vol. 22(3), pp.447-464.