Jakarta. Cigarette companies in Indonesia are targeting schoolchildren by spending massively on advertising in and around school areas, non-profit child advocacy organization Lentera Anak Indonesia said on Thursday (23/02).
After monitoring 90 schools in Padang (West Sumatra), Mataram (West Nusa Tenggara), Tangerang Selatan (Banten), Bogor and Bekasi (West Java), the group said conspicuous cigarette advertising is nearly "everywhere" around the schools.
Lentera Anak chairwoman Lisda Sundari said the Education Ministry had issued a regulation in 2015 banning smoking cigarettes inside school grounds, but the regulation is powerless when it comes to protecting students from exposure to massive cigarette advertising.
Food stalls and small kiosks around schools are "best agents” for cigarette companies targeting these students, Lisda said. The owners are paid between $45 and $300 a year to install a 2 meter-square banner at their stalls and kiosks.
"The cigarette companies want to 'normalize' these massive advertising. They want schoolchildren to think there's nothing wrong with smoking cigarettes and forget the health problems it could create," Lisda said.
At least 61 cigarette brands put advertising next to schools during the group's research between September 2016 and February 2017.
In another research conducted in 2015, Lentera Anak found out 85 percent of schools were surrounded by cigarette advertising.
Students fight back
Around 2,700 students in the 90 schools that Lentera Anak studied were briefed about the threat of cigarette ads during its four-month monitoring and guidance program.
The schoolchildren banded together online to create an anti-cigarette ads campaign using the hashtag #TolakJadiTarget ("Refuse to be a target"), with a goal of pulling down all cigarette advertising in school areas.
In Mataram, students collected money to compensate kiosk owners who were willing to pull down their cigarette ad banner and replaced them with a banner from the #TolakJadiTarget campaign.
In Bekasi, schools worked with the district's public order agency to raid kiosk owners who still install cigarette ads.
"We're trying to persuade the district administration to issue a regional regulation banning cigarette ads around school," Uchi, a teacher in a state junior high school in Bekasi, said.
Only four regions in Indonesia have issued outright ban on cigarette ads around schools.
Padang Panjang and Payakumbuh districts in West Sumatra have ruled out cigarette ads around school as part of an anti-smoking regulation in school areas.
Jakarta and Bogor have issued outright bans on cigarette promotion near school areas.
Around 300 schoolchildren are scheduled to perform a play satirizing cigarette ads in front of Merdeka Palace in Central Jakarta on Saturday to call on President Joko Widodo to support their anti-cigarette advertising campaign.