Tobacco Lobby’s Playing Dirty on Legislation: Anti-Smoking Activist
Dessy Sagita &Markus Junianto Sihaloho
The tobacco farmers association and cigarette producers will do whatever it takes to keep their businesses running, including attacking the government’s proposed bill to control the impact of tobacco, anti-smoking activist Fuad Baradja says.
“The cigarette industry will do anything it takes so that this country doesn’t have any regulations, laws or a government decree [related to smoking],” said Fuad, who is also the head of guidance and education at the Indonesian Smoking Control Foundation.
The cigarette industry continues to pressure the government to not pass the bill into law.
Fuad denied accusations the government did not involve farmers or the cigarette industry when drafting the bill.
“Why wouldn’t [the government] talk to them? I think all interests have been accommodated. The RPP [tobacco impact control bill] already involves too many compromises,” he said.
Fuad said he was disappointed with the statement issued by groups oppose to the bill that claimed smoking was a human right, that parents were responsible for preventing their children from smoking, and therefore it shouldn’t be regulated.
“Human rights are also tied to other people’s rights and they’re not without limits,” Fuad said. “Smoking isn’t banned. It can be done in areas that don’t disturb non-smokers. The only one that can protect non-smokers is the government.”
Fuad also said that many people cannot protect their children from smoking because they do not know the dangers.
“Smoking infants are only found in Indonesia,” he added. “How can you expect parents to protect their children from the dangers of smoking if they find smoking infants to be cute and entertaining? We need to educate them with graphic warning labels and non-smoking zones.”
Fuad called on parties who oppose the RPP to find out more so they can understand that their protests are groundless.
The Coalition of Clove Cigarette Saviors (KNPK) accused the government of trying to kill the livelihoods of tobacco farmers, claiming the RPP was part of government efforts to ratify the UN Framework Convention of Tobacco Control.
“If the FCTC is ratified, it will be a nightmare for local tobacco farmers and the clove cigarette industry,” KNPK coordinator Zulvan Kurniawan said.
He said the FCTC limited the allowable nicotine level in cigarettes to three milligrams, which could only be achieved with imported tobacco.
“All variants of local tobacco have nicotine levels of more than three milligrams. Indonesia’s tobacco has at least five milligrams of nicotine, with some between seven and 10 milligrams,” Zulvan said.