Minister Calls for Delay on Smoking Regulations
Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar called on Wednesday for a delay in implementation of the tobacco impact control bill, which would mandate pictorial health warnings on cigarette packaging and no-smoking zones.
The minister said some 500,000 people stand to suffer job losses if the new law passes, and said the law failed to account for the interests of tobacco farmers and clove cigarette businessmen. Muhaimin said he heard multiple complaints from tobacco farmers on a recent visit to Pamekasan, East Java.
“They are worried they will lose their livelihood,” he said. “They want delay of regulation passage.”
Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said recently that the regulation introducing mandatory graphic pictorial warnings on cigarette packs could be implemented by the end of June. The pictures will also be coupled with further restrictions on tobacco advertisement and sales.
Agung added that the new law could be signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono “this month or in July.”
Muhaimin said that he would be ready to mediate a dialogue between tobacco farmers, the cigarette industry and the Ministries of Health and People’s Welfare, and said the cigarette industry has contributed significantly to state revenues.
But Tulus Abadi, manager of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI), criticized Muhaimin’s assertions.
“He is obviously defending the interests of cigarette industry instead of protecting people,” Tulus said, adding that Muhaimin’s claim that people would lose their livelihood was irrational.
“The regulation stipulates pictorial warnings and cigarette-free zones,” he said. “There is nothing in the regulation banning people from smoking or prohibiting the industry from [cigarette] production. It is nonsense.”
While Muhaimin asked for a delay, Tulus said instead that the regulation should be passed immediately.
“The health law mandating the regulation should have been passed in 2010,” he said. “Delaying it again means the government is violating the law.”
Health Ministry data shows that seven percent of teenagers were smoking in 1995, with the figure soaring to 19 percent in 2010.
Professor Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the ministry’s director-general for disease control and environmental health, said many low-income people were smokers, and the amount they spent on cigarettes exceeded the Rp 100,000 ($11) monthly aid they receive from government.
A University of Indonesia Demographic Institute (LDUI) study in 2009 showed that 57 percent of the poorest households in the country spent a significant part of their income on cigarettes.