A study finds three in four Indonesian teenagers find out about cigarettes from the internet. (Antara Photo/Oky Lukmansyah)

Gov't Roots Out Online Cigarette Ads

BY :IRAWATI D. ASTUTI & DINA MANAFE & CHRISTIAN LEE

JUNE 14, 2019

Jakarta. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has banned all cigarette advertisements on the internet in a bid to suppress the number of youth smokers.

The decision was made following a request from Health Minister Nila Moeloek to take down all tobacco-related ads which are ubiquitous on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and also on online games and websites.

In a letter dated June 10, Nila wrote that there has been a rise in the number of underage smokers. A 2018 research by the ministry found that the number of teenage smokers between the ages of 10 and 18 has increased to 9.1 percent of total smokers from 7.2 percent in 2013.

She argued that teenage smokers take up the habit because of high exposure to online cigarette ads. A study by the London School of Public Relations showed that three in four Indonesian teenagers know about cigarettes from advertising on the internet.

"Because of this, I ask the communications and information technology minister to immediately [take down online cigarette ads] to save our children from tobacco addiction. An addict will continue smoking throughout their life and have a high risk of contracting catastrophic illnesses," Nila said on Thursday.

Communications Ministry spokesman Ferdinandus Setu said that the ministry found 114 links on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube that violated a 2009 Health Law prohibiting "cigarette promotions that display the act of smoking."

The ministry will use its web crawler, which costs nearly Rp 200 billion ($14 million), to detect and block accounts or content that violate regulations.

Indonesia has the highest rate of male smokers in the world. A 2016 research from the World Health Organization showed that 76 percent –over three-quarters – of Indonesian men over the age of 15 are smokers.

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