Tobacco Supporters in Indonesia Still Say It’s Not Addictive

March 02, 2011


Thousands of international, scientific studies have proved the addictive power of nicotine, the essential element in tobacco products that gets people hooked and keeps them using a product that kills them.  

That arresting video of a chain-smoking Indonesian toddler that went viral on the Web last year was clear and disturbing proof that this potent drug can work its deadly grip on anyone, of any age.

None of this evidence has stopped supporters of Indonesia's tobacco industry from trying to block the country's efforts to curb tobacco. A 2009 law that declares tobacco is an addictive substance has spawned a court challenge in which far-fetched claims most of us haven't heard in decades are being aired.

Among them: 

  • That tobacco can be manipulated to improve health — and even cure cancer.

  • That stress is a major factor in the illnesses that are often blamed on tobacco — but the antidote to the stress is smoking. 

  • A pharmacology professor even testified that he'd never heard of anyone dying from smoking.

In truth, smoking kills 200,000 people in Indonesia each year. The country has one of the world's worst tobacco problems:  Nearly two-thirds of Indonesian men and 24 percent of boys between 13 and 15 smoke.

Low taxes keep cigarettes cheap, there are virtually no controls on tobacco marketing and the tobacco industry has powerful allies in the government.

In the United States, deceptive statements about tobacco — including industry executives' 1994 congressional testimony that they did not believe nicotine is addictive — helped provide the political momentum needed to finally impose tobacco restrictions.

The outlandish court claims now being made in Indonesia should do the same.