Dessy Sagita & ID/Alina Musta’idah
Tobacco control activists slammed a member of the East Java Regional Representatives Council on Friday for his opposition to a draft bill that would regulate the tobacco industry.
The bill would place graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, limit advertising, regulate smoking sections in buildings and create new rules for nicotine and tar content.
After Agus Dono Wibawanto, a member of the council known as the DPRD, said on Friday that he was lobbying other legislators in the province to reject the bill, activists labelled him irresponsible.
“It’s shameful how a public official whose job is to make regulations could say such things,” Tulus Abadi, manager of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI), said later in the day.
The purpose of the tobacco bill is to implement the 2009 Health Law, Tulus said. East Java is a major tobacco producer. Agus had said the draft bill lacked support.
“It is something weird that a number of [Indonesians] are looking to destroy the wealth and potential of the tobacco sector in the name of health and international trade politics through law and regulation,” Agus said.
Cigarette producers have argued that the legislation benefits foreign cigarette brands, which have less nicotine and tar. They say the law would kill the kretek clove cigarette industry.
Fuad Baradja, head of public education at the Indonesian Smoking Control Foundation (LM3), said a public official whose salary comes from public funds should always prioritize the welfare of the public over the interests of business.
That’s not what Agus was doing, he added. “A public official would make a statement denouncing the tobacco bill for two reasons,” Fuad said. “Either he doesn’t understand what the bill is all about, or he simply doesn’t have a heart.”
The bill clearly did not target tobacco farmers and would not prohibit anyone from smoking, Fuad said.
The bill would also prohibit the use of additives not scientifically proven to carry no adverse health effects.
Indonesia is home to some of the laxest tobacco regulation in the world, and one of the highest rates of smoking.