Indonesian’s reluctance to accede the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has drawn concern and criticism from the global community.
Indonesia, home to one of the largest numbers of smokers in the world, actively participated when the convention was drafted between 1998 and 2003. However, it bailed at the last minute when other countries signed the treaty. The government and the tobacco industry argued that adopting the convention would kill the livelihoods of at least 5 million tobacco and clove farmers, cigarette factory workers and cigarette vendors, as well as causing Rp 10 trillion ($880 million) in financial losses.
However, the treaty does not ban tobacco farming and trade. It will only regulate companies’ ability to market their products in order to prevent children from taking up the habit. The Association of Indonesian Public Health Policy estimated that while the tobacco industry claims to have contributed Rp 55 trillion in excise taxes, the state has suffered Rp 245 trillion in financial losses due to tobacco-related illnesses that kill at least 235,000 people in the country annually. Globally, smoking kills 5 million people every year.
Experts and activists urged the government to immediately accede the convention before the 2014 election begins amid concern that the issue will not be taken up afterward. The convention is considered the most effective solution to not only protect Indonesians from the health risks but also to protect the local industry and the tobacco farmers from foreign domination.
By not acceding to the FCTC, Indonesia is not allowed to voice its concern at the global level about the sustainability of the local tobacco industry. The country has been criticized as the only country in Asia, the Pacific or the Group of 20 that has not acceded to or ratified the convention.