Cigarettes and youth
Cigarette consumption in Indonesia continues to be a problem. A zoo in Bandung recently became the centre of local and international media attention after an orangutan was filmed smoking. Indonesian youth are particularly vulnerable as they are continuously exposed to cigarette advertisements, and have easy access to buy cheap cigarettes.
- One of the declarations of the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health participants in Cape Town, South Africa last week was to ask the government, especially in Africa and Asia, to reduce the affordability and accessibility of tobacco products in the community.
- One step is to raise cigarette taxes by up to 70% – according to WHO standards – so prices become less affordable to people of lower income and children.
- The Indonesian Customs Law allows tax of up to 57% of retail price, but the average cigarette is only taxed at 40%. Weak political will from the government is the cause of cheap price of cigarettes, making them easily accessible to school children and the poor.
- Increase in cigarette tax in 2017 has shown an increase of retail price by 12.26%.
- Researchers collected data from 153 adolescents aged 17-25 years in Kuningan, West Java in May and June 2017. The findings showed the increase in cigarette prices could reduce cigarette consumption in adolescents by an average of two cigarettes per day.
- There was also a change in consumption patterns from buying expensive brands and shifting to cheaper brands.
Biggest Risk Factor
- Indonesia is the world’s largest cigarette consumer after China and India, and is the largest consumer in ASEAN. More than half the adult population in Indonesia smoke.
- Indonesia has the largest percentage of smoking adolescents in ASEAN between ages 13-15 years.
- Indonesia is the only nation in Southeast Asia that has not ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Geneva, despite participating in the initial discussions of the convention.
- An important point of the convention is to increase the customs tax on tobacco products as a tool to control the consumption of cigarettes.
Learning from Neighbouring Countries
- Thailand: Increased cigarette tax eleven times between 1991 and 2012, from 55% to 87%. This has increased state revenue four-fold, and decreased the prevalence of smoking from 32% (1991) to 21.4% (2011).
- Philippines: Implemented the Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012. The government targeted all types of cigarettes, and in 2013 increased tax from 340% to 820% on cheap cigarettes.
- Malaysia: While there is a gradual increase in tax, a long-term policy has not yet been put in place.
- Chairman of the Banjarmasin City Children Forum, Muhammad Fahmy Rheza stated there were 590 cigarette advertisements across the city in the form of banners, billboards, neon boxes, stickers and posters.
- Unfortunately, many of the ads are located in places of youth activities, such as roads near schools, playgrounds, sports venues, and shopping centres.
- Rheza said, “This finding strongly suggests the cigarette industry is deliberately targeting children as future consumers. This is clearly done to ensure the continuity of business.”
- Exposure to continuous advertisements has influenced children to smoke. A study by the Child Protection Commission and Uhamka has shown that 46% of teenagers smoke because they were influenced by advertisements.
- Gading Fajar Ramadhan of the Warrior Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Warrior FCTC) stated they will support the Banjarmasin government to create a city suitable for children, without cigarette advertisements.
- Warrior FCTC is a group of 40 youth representatives from 25 cities, who collaborate to reject the hegemony of tobacco industries and refuse to be the target of their advertisements.