Big Tobacco’s tight grip on policy makers in Indonesia

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In the US, the world’s major tobacco companies are being forced to spend millions on adverts carrying ‘corrective’ messages’, which will be released on prime-time television. These court-mandated adverts against smoking are being funded by Altria group which owns Philip Morris USA, and British American Tobacco PLC., and come as a result of a lawsuit against the companies.

Unfortunately the situation in South East Asia is drastically different, as tobacco companies still seem to be main power players. “Although Big Tobacco has been forced to issue these long-overdue corrective statements in the US, it is business as usual for the rest of the world as tobacco companies continue their misleading advertisements,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, SEATCA executive director.

A number of policies in Indonesia were influenced by Big Tobacco

Over half of the male population in Indonesia smoke, which is it the highest rate globally, and equating to the country being Asia’s second-largest cigarette market after China.

According to SEATCA’s Tobacco Industry Interference Index, a system which assesses how countries are adhering to the WHO’s tobacco policies, the tobacco industry has been using lobby groups to kill any efforts by policymakers to implement tobacco regulations in the region. The index pointed out that the situation is especially precarious in Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

“A number of policies in Indonesia were influenced by the tobacco industry. Indonesia is easily controlled by Big Tobacco because we haven’t ratified the FCTC,” said Prijo Sidipratomo, chairman of the National Commission on Tobacco Control. “Many countries have banned cigarette ads, we’re the odd ones out.”

Indonesian Trade Minister wants locals to keep smoking

To add insult to injury, last month the Trade Minister of Indonesia announced a set of new e-liquid imports’ restrictions. During the announcement, the Minister allegedly said that he is fully aware that these new regulations will make it close to impossible for importers to obtain their vaping products, and that this is precisely the intention. He added that these imports do not provide any benefits to the country’s tobacco farming industry. “Yes, we’ll catch them (if they’re still importing), so that electric smokers will be changed into regular smokers,” said Minister of Trade Enggartiasto Lukita, as quoted by local news site Kompas.

“A number of policies in Indonesia were influenced by the tobacco industry. Indonesia is easily controlled by Big Tobacco because we haven’t ratified the FCTC.”Prijo Sidipratomo, Chairman, National Commission on Tobacco Control

Indonesia is the only WHO member in Southeast Asia that has not endorsed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). More than half of the male population in the country smoke, making it the highest rate globally and equating to the country being Asia’s second-largest cigarette market after China.

Read Further: South Asia Morning Post



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