Graphic Tobacco Warnings Stalled
Antitobacco activists warned on Wednesday that a proposed regulation that would require tobacco companies to place graphic warnings on cigarette packs was facing an untimely death.
“It is going nowhere, with so many tricks to delay the issuance of the regulation,” Kartono Muhammad, a prominent antitobacco activist, said after a meeting at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.
“I believe in the end the regulation will die slowly.”
Kartono said he was disappointed that a government official had proposed doing away with the idea of placing graphic images depicting smoking-related diseases on cigarette packs.
He did not identify the official, whom he said argued in the meeting that the images would endanger the livelihoods of millions of people who made their living from the tobacco industry.
“It’s such a cliche. I know their trick,” he said. “They will try to delay, delude and eventually delete this law altogether.”
Kartono said the discussion went nowhere because the government insisted that all stakeholders, including the tobacco industry, have as much input as they wanted on the regulation.
“If we keep letting people challenge this regulation, there is no way we can finish it this year,” he said.
Under the 2009 Health Law, cigarette producers and importers must place pictorial warnings on packs or face a fine of up to Rp 500 million ($58,000). However, the government has yet to issue the supporting regulation required to enforce the law.
The Health Ministry proposed in a draft regulation that the warnings should cover at least 50 percent of the surface area of each cigarette pack.
However, Kartono said the tobacco industry was trying to shrink the images to 30 percent of the packs, or simply not have them at all.
Tulus Abadi, managing director of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI), said the group would push the government to implement the regulation as drafted by the ministry.
“Written warnings are not effective. We need something stronger to convince people that smoking is deadly,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to make sure the pictures will not get smaller or be deleted, and we will fight for this regulation to be issued immediately because it is already nearly two years late.”
Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the Health Ministry’s director general for disease control and environmental health, said it was important to hear suggestions from all stakeholders to ensure the regulation accommodated the interests of all parties.
He denied the government was intentionally delaying the issuance of the regulation. “It’s an ongoing process. We are not dragging our feet,” he said. “We have to give it more time.”