Many Indonesian smokers still refuse to believe that smoking is bad for their health despite thousands of medical studies that support the claim.
“There are still people out there who doubt the scientific evidence regarding the negative impacts of smoking for health, saying, ‘a chain smoker in my village is still alive at 97 years of age,’ ” the Health Ministry’s director general for environmental health and disease control Tjandra Yoga Aditama said on Sunday.
Tjandra said smoking had nothing to do with smokers’ economic and working conditions. “For some of our people, smoking has become a culture,” he lamented.
He said that to overcome the problem, anti-smoking programs should be conducted based on strong scientific evidence of cigarettes’ impact on health, economic and social conditions.
“Eventually, regional heads and civil society will take part so that it will not only be limited to the people in the health sector,” he said.
Health Ministry data showed 7 percent of teenagers smoked in 1995, with the figure soaring to 19 percent in 2010. Tjandra said many low-income people smoked and the amount they spent on cigarettes exceeded the Rp 100,000 ($11) in monthly aid they received from the government.
A University of Indonesia Demographic Institute (LDUI) study in 2009 showed that 57 percent of the poorest households in the country spent part of their income on cigarettes.
LDUI researcher Abdillah Hasan said that meant a person who smoked a pack of cigarettes daily stood to lose more than Rp 36 million over 10 years, money which could have been used for education or to improve their children’s nutrition.
“Our recommendation is clear: Speed up the implementing rules for tobacco impact control and ratify the FCTC,” Abdillah said, referring to the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
A new government regulation introducing mandatory graphic warnings on cigarette packs while restricting tobacco advertising and sales could be out as early as this month, a top official said last week.
Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said the tobacco control regulation could be signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono “this month or in July.”
Additional reporting from Antara