Yogyakarta. Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization, has issued an edict stating that electronic cigarettes are haram and banned the increasingly popular tobacco alternatives among the organization's 22 million followers.
The fatwa, which is binding only on those who agree with the ulema's opinion, affirmed the organization's staunch opposition against cigarettes and tobacco products.
"The e-cigarettes are as haram as conventional cigarettes. They fall into a category of consuming something destructive or harmful," Wawan Gunawan Abdul Wahid, a member of the fatwa division at Muhammadiyah's central executive board, told reporters at the organization’s headquarters in Yogyakarta on Friday.
"E-cigarettes are dangerous to the smoker themselves and other people exposed to its vapor, according to medical experts and academicians," Wawan said.
The ban encompasses all kinds of cigarettes, either the electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS), electronic non-nicotine delivery system (ENNDS), or heated tobacco products (HPT).
Muhammadiyah has been campaigning against cigarettes for decades. The organization made sure all schools, hospitals, or campuses under its supervision are all smoking-free. It established the Muhammadiyah Tobacco Control Centre, which helps local governments creating the tobacco-free areas in their regions.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) also has issued a haram fatwa on smoking but limited its scope to children, pregnant women, and smoking in public spaces.
Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) -- which has close to four times more followers than Muhammadiyah and some of them living in Java's tobacco-producing region -- are more flexible in their view about cigarettes. The organization said consuming cigarettes can be permissible or forbidden depending on circumstances.
Despite the government's effort to curb smoking by imposing higher taxes, limiting advertisements, and banning smoking in public spaces, Indonesia remains among some countries with the highest number of adult and underage smokers in the world.
Data compiled by Tobacco Atlas showed two-thirds of Indonesian above 15 years old are smokers, and 3.5 percent of the country's children smoke.
The electronic cigarette gained popularity in Indonesia in the past four years, especially among the teenager and young adult who saw it as a healthier alternative to cigarettes.
The National Narcotics Agency (BNN), however, has called for an outright ban on the e-cigarette, saying that the products can facilitate the consumption of more harmful narcotics.