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New Survey: Indonesia Has Highest Male Smoking Rate in the World

September 12, 2012


Indonesia has the highest male smoking rate among countries surveyed to date, according to results from the nation’s first Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) released today.

The survey underscored the scope of Indonesia’s tobacco epidemic, which is fueled by cheap cigarettes, rampant tobacco advertising and weak government policies to reduce tobacco use. Smoking kills at least 200,000 people in Indonesia each year.

GATS is a standardized survey that has been conducted in 15 low- and middle-income countries with high rates of tobacco use. Highlights from the Indonesia survey include:

  • Two-thirds of Indonesian males — 67 percent — smoke tobacco.
  • 61 million Indonesians currently use tobacco, almost all of whom smoke tobacco.
  • Among people who visit restaurants, 85.4 percent are exposed to tobacco smoke, while among those who use public transportation, 70 percent are exposed.
  • Almost all adults (82.5 percent) reported seeing cigarette advertising or promotions in the last month, far exceeding exposure levels from any other country surveyed.
  • Nearly 50 percent of current smokers plan to or are thinking about quitting; however, only 10.5 percent plan to quit within the next 12 months.
  • Overall, four in five Indonesians believed that smoking causes serious illness (86.0 percent), specifically heart attacks (81.5 percent) and lung cancer (84.7 percent). However, knowledge of other specific illnesses caused by smoking was low: premature birth (49.5 percent), stroke (45.5 percent) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (36%).

An Associated Press story on the survey results describes the unrestrained tobacco marketing causing this epidemic: giant billboards promoting cigarettes, commercials on television and before movies in theatres, and tobacco industry sponsorship of sporting events and concerts. Many countries prohibit such marketing, but it is still allowed under Indonesia’s lax laws.

'We have failed in protecting our people,' Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi told the AP. We have been defeated by the tobacco industry... we don't want this, we cannot accept this because our job is to protect people from cigarettes.'

The survey report calls on Indonesia to take swift action and implement proven tobacco control policies to reduce tobacco's deadly grip on the country. Indonesia is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first public health treaty. The treaty requires ratifying countries to implement evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Download a fact sheet summarizing the Indonesia survey.