Jakarta. In South Kalimantan, Hulu Sungai Utara district head Abdul Wahid no longer permits cigarette advertising in order to make the region child-friendly.
Upon Abdul's instruction, the district's Integrated Licensing Office will no longer grant or extend permits for cigarette advertisements, while existing ads will be removed.
"Although cigarette advertising earns a substantial income, we have to protect people, especially our children, from the dangers of tobacco," Abdul said on Sunday (22/07), as quoted by Antara.
According to Abdul, local government offices will also gradually become smoke-free, under a newly imposed regional regulation on non-smoking areas. Residents, too, should not smoke in public, only in designated places, as cigarette smoke has a harmful effect on children and toddlers.
Indonesia is the only country in Asia that has not signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by the World Health Organization (WHO), which imposes strict limits on tobacco advertising, production, sales, distribution, taxation and sponsorship. Last year, the convention already had 180 signatories.
Indonesia, home to about 260 million people, has approximately 60 million smokers. According to Tobacco Atlas data, 469,000 of them are children between 10 and 14 years. More than 200,000 people die of smoking-related illnesses every year.
According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), among the country's poor, cigarettes are the second largest expenditure after rice, consuming nearly one-fourth of their monthly income. The government imposes only a 10 percent excise tax on cigarettes, a pack costs only some Rp 20,000 ($1.4).
Politicians often defend the tobacco industry, despite alarming health concerns, citing it as an important source of income for tobacco farmers and the state's coffers.
"We are aware of its [the low tax rate] impact on consumption and health, but we also take into account the impact on the industry, especially labor absorption whether farmers or distributors," head of the fiscal office at the Ministry of Finance, Suahasil Nazara, told the Jakarta Globe last week.
State revenue from tobacco products is increasing. Last year, it reached Rp 148 trillion, from Rp 51.25 trillion in 2008, BPS data shows.
According to Euromonitor International, Indonesia produced 269.2 billion cigarettes in 2015, with a market value of Rp 231.3 trillion.