Ministries Join Efforts to Enforce Bans on Smoking

Cigarette products are displayed by a street vendor in Jakarta street on April 7, 2012. (AFP Photo/ Oscar Siagian)

Cigarette products are displayed by a street vendor in Jakarta street on April 7, 2012. (AFP Photo/ Oscar Siagian)

The central government will urge regional authorities to immediately enforce no-smoking zones as called for under a recently passed tobacco control regulation, Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi announced on Wednesday.

“The Health Ministry will work with the Home Affairs Ministry to issue a regulation to get regional administrations to set up and enforce no-smoking zones,” she said at a discussion in Jakarta, as quoted by Antaranews.com.

She also said that the two ministries would work together to draft a handbook to help regional authorities understand and ensure compliance with the provisions in the tobacco control regulation that was signed earlier this month by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Under the terms of the regulation, regional authorities are obliged to enforce a prohibition on smoking in seven designated areas.

These include health care facilities, educational facilities and children’s recreational areas. Others are places of worship, on board public transportation, in workplaces and in public spaces.

Nafsiah said that through the end of 2012, only 70 district and municipal administrations out of 503 nationwide had implemented smoke-free zones in their respective jurisdictions.

She added that she hoped that more local administrations across the country would soon establish such zones.

“For now, we’re busy informing local authorities about the smoke-free zones as designated under the new tobacco control regulation, such as on board public transportation, but we can’t prescribe any punishment for violations yet,” she said.

“The punishments will be detailed in each region’s bylaw [to enforce the regulation].”

In addition to limiting areas where people can smoke, the regulation also imposes several restrictions on tobacco advertising and packaging, but critics contend that it has been scaled back drastically from an earlier, more stringent version.

Shortly after it was signed on Jan. 8, Nafsiah said the regulation fell short on key points, including on outdoor cigarette advertising, the 18-month period given to cigarette producers to comply, and half-hearted restrictions on tobacco companies’ sponsorship of events.

“To be honest, I don’t feel that [the regulation] is fierce enough,” she said.

She added she was particularly disappointed with was a provision allowing outdoor advertising billboards for tobacco products to be as large as 72 square meters — one of the biggest sizes available.

Nafsiah also took issue with the fact that the regulation did not go into force immediately, but would be eased in over an 18-month period.

Another point that critics have lamented is a provision allowing tobacco companies to continue sponsoring events like sports matches and concerts. However, they will no longer be allowed to hand out free cigarettes or display their product branding during these events.

The key provision in the regulation is for a mandatory graphic warning covering 40 percent of the front and back of all cigarette packs. The side panels will carry a written warnings stating that cigarettes contain more than 4,000 dangerous chemicals and 43 carcinogens, and another one noting that there is no safe level for tobacco use.

The regulation will require cigarette ads on television to devote 10 percent of their running time to written warnings and a pictorial warning.

Commercials on the radio would have to devote 10 percent of their duration to verbal warnings, while still-image ads would be required to comply by devoting 10 percent of their viewable area to a warning.