The cigarette industry is criticizing the National Commission for Child Protection for asking cigarette producers to drop their brands when doing charity work or corporate social responsibility programs.
Hasan Aoni Aziz Us, from the Association of Indonesian Cigarette Producers (Gappri), said that Komnas Anak was discouraging businesspeople from doing good deeds.
“We should not stop doing good deeds,” Hasan said. “It’s the same as killing the human nature of businesspeople, no matter what institution they may come from.”
Cigarette producers have been involved in CSR activities for decades, contributing to cultural, environment, education, social and sporting activities in Indonesia, he said.
However, Komnas Anak chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait denied the accusation, saying that his organization never told anyone to stop engaging in charitable programs.
“We’ve never stopped anyone from doing good deeds, whoever they are, whether they are corporations, institutions or individuals,” he said. “We appreciate good deeds but why bring cigarette brands?”
Arist said he only objected when an institution involved in CSR activities used their cigarette brands in the activity.
“If the positive activities are used to create a positive image, why do they have to use their cigarette brands as the name of their institutions? Why not name them Yayasan Melati [Jasmine Foundation] or something?
“If they are sincere in helping others, people don’t have to know that the help came from a cigarette company,” he said.
Arist insisted that the CSR, charity work or scholarships that use cigarette brands are no different than advertisements.
“If [the brands] continue to be mentioned, it will be planted in our children’s minds that cigarette companies are good,” Arist argued.
Hasan responded that a positive image is just a side effect that all institutions get when conducting social activities. He said that companies engaged in social work and CSR not only because they were keen on doing them but also to comply with a 2007 law requiring companies to participate in CSR activities.
“Every year, there is never enough funding from the state budget or regional budget for development,” Hasan said. “Cigarette companies help fill that hole. If you combine it, the total amount spent [on CSR] could reach hundreds of billions of rupiah per year.”
Hasan said international pharmaceutical companies sponsored anti-cigarette activities but their CSR in some community sectors was insufficient.
“We should encourage any industry, including those that support anti-tobacco activities, to increase their funding and involvement in CSR activities. But don’t ask those that are already running to stop,” Hasan said.
Cultural expert Mohammad Sobary said the government and lawmakers did not care about social welfare activities and that the government had never allocated sufficient funds from the budget to support those activities.
Sobary said cigarette companies paid a lot of attention to culture and had allocated large amounts of money to support cultural programs.
Komnas Anak said that nearly 16 million children and women in Indonesia have been negatively affected by cigarettes.
“This is very alarming because a majority of smokers started when they were teenagers,” Arist said. “Women and children are the cigarette industry’s target market.”