Tobacco epidemic in Indonesia
Indonesia have millions of new underage smokers every year and an estimated 40 million people are exposed to secondhand smoke (Miko & Berkat, 2017, Pg 13). According to Indonesia’s health ministry, 17 major health organizations and many others have openly opposed the move, saying it would worsen the countries ineffective by tobacco control laws. The bill is not the only tobacco policy issue awaiting the Jokowi administration. Thousands of children, as young as eight years, produce tobacco in unsafe situations in Indonesia every year. (Hurt et al., 2012, Pg 306-312), mentioned that the finished product is sold to big tobacco companies in Indonesia and overseas for profit. Child labor is exposed to nicotine and pesticides — both toxic as well as harmful to developing children (Achadi et al., 2005, Pg 333-349). Half of the children had experienced nausea, vomiting, headaches or dizziness at work. These are symptoms of acute nicotine poisoning, which can occur after treatment of tobacco plants and absorbed nicotine through the skin by the workers. Most of the children mentioned that they mixed toxic chemicals and spraying them on plants without any protective equipment, and some became extremely ill.
Image source: The West Java village, 13 years old girl and her sister helping their parents to harvesting tobacco (Jyb8, 2018).
Tackling Indonesia’s tobacco epidemic is a double-edged sword.
Indonesia has the highest smoking rates in the world, and its tobacco production continues to boom as the number of smokers declines globally. Although Indonesia’s legal minimum age for smoking is 18, the industry remains unregulated, especially in the remote areas. Therefore, children can buy a cigarette from a roadside kiosk for a few cents (Ganiwijaya et al., 1995, Pg 335).
Indonesia depends on tobacco not only because of its availability and affordability but also because it improves the country’s economy. Therefore while smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the country, analysts say cracking down on a tobacco production is a “double-edged sword.” Mohammed Faisal, executive director of the center for economic reform think tank, told ABC that tobacco has traditionally been one of Indonesia’s biggest national industries and that the hand-rolled cloves of cretaco cigarettes are deeply rooted in Indonesian culture (Jieyan, 2019, Pg 5-10). Last year, excise taxes on cigarettes stretched to 153 trillion rupees ($15.8 billion), accounting for almost 96 percent of the state’s overall consumption duty and 10 percent of the government’s overall revenue, according to the ministry of industry (Ter Wengel & Rodriguez, 2006, Pg25-37).
Image source: Imagine shows a tobacco factory in Indonesia. (Sohu, 2018)
“There are extremely wealthy tobacco groups that have the ability to influence the political system, especially in areas that depend on the tobacco industry,” he said. (Jieyan, 2019, para 5)
Yet income pales in comparison to the enormous cost of the public-health crisis caused by smoking.
According to the ministry of health, the national cost of tobacco consumption in 2015 was nearly 600 trillion rupees ($62.2 billion), four times the amount consumed in the same year.
Achadi, A., Soerojo, W. and Barber, S., 2005. The relevance and prospects of advancing tobacco control in Indonesia. Health policy, 72(3), pp.333-349.
Ganiwijaya, T., Sjukrudin, E., De Backer, G., Suhana, D., Brotoprawiro, S. and Sukandar, H., 1995. Prevalence of cigarette smoking in a rural area of West Java, Indonesia. Tobacco Control, 4(4), p.335.
Hurt, R.D., Ebbert, J.O., Achadi, A. and Croghan, I.T., 2012. Roadmap to a tobacco epidemic: transnational tobacco companies invade Indonesia. Tobacco control, 21(3), pp.306-312
Jieyan, B., 2019. Tackling Indonesia’s tobacco epidemic is a double-edged sword. pp 5-10
Miko, A. and Berkat, S., 2017. The second-hand smoke in pregnancy and its impact toward low birth weight in district of aceh besar, aceh province, Indonesia. cancer, 12, p.13.
Ter Wengel, J. and Rodriguez, E., 2006. SME export performance in Indonesia after the crisis. Small Business Economics, 26(1), pp.25-37.
Jieyan, B., 2018.Tobacco harvesting in Indonesia is carried out by children, whose health is at risk, jyb8, viewed 9th Nov. 2019 http://www.sohu.com/picture/243926782