Made Arya Kencana
Nusa Dua, Bali. The government has finalized the legislation designed to combat the influence of tobacco, and has asked the cigarette industry to halt its opposition to the contentious bill.
“It will be signed soon. The draft has been submitted to ministers to be signed,” Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said on Monday.
Nafsiah said that public health was more important than tobacco industry profits and that she therefore asked producers to stop opposing it.
“Haven’t they enjoyed huge profits for tens of years already? Now is the time for them to start thinking about the people and not kill them,” the minister said.
Nafsiah denied claims that the legislation will end the livelihood of tobacco farmers, saying that such fears stemmed from farmers’ ignorance.
“That’s absolutely not true. They are just seeking profits,” she said.
She said that the bill would remind the public of the dangers of smoking.
The proportion of smokers in the country has increased from 53 percent to 76 percent over the past two decades, recent figures show. “This is very dangerous and very alarming,” the minister said.
Nafsiah blamed aggressive promotions by the cigarette industry for the increase.
“The industry should start thinking about this and stop turning the younger generation into new smokers,” she said.
She said that under the legislation, cigarettes could still be produced, but only in limited quantities.
“[Cigarette manufacturers] have been enjoying very huge profits and it will not make them poor if they reduce their profits just a bit,” she said.
Previously, anti-smoking activist Fuad Baradja had said that tobacco farmers and cigarette producers would do whatever it took to keep their businesses running, including attacking the proposed bill to control the impact of tobacco.
“The cigarette industry will do anything it can so that this country doesn’t have any regulations, laws or a government decrees [related to smoking],” said Fuad, who is the head of guidance and education at the Indonesian Smoking Control Foundation.
Fuad denied accusations of the government not involving farmers or the cigarette industry when drafting the bill.
The cigarette industry’s response to the minister’s call for them to halt their campaign was not clear on Monday, but is unlikely to relent in its efforts.
Indonesia is one of the few countries yet to sign or ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, leaving it with some of the world’s most liberal smoking laws.