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Tobacco Company Blows Smoke on National Health Day in Indonesia

November 14, 2013

How does the Indonesian tobacco company Djarum celebrate the country’s National Health Day? It places a giant front-page ad for one of its cigarettes in a national newspaper. Then that newspaper happens to make its way onto every seat at the launch event for the Ministry of Health’s National Health Day event.

That’s how bad things are in Indonesia, where tobacco companies have near-free rein to promote and sell their deadly products and newspapers shirk their responsibility to readers by running those ads. Indonesia is the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and its laws on tobacco advertising are among the weakest in the world.

As The Jakarta Post points out, the cigarette newspaper ad comes at a time when the Ministry of Health is pushing the Indonesian government to ratify the FCTC, which requires a total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The newspaper ad “shows how aggressive cigarette companies can be, as they will avail of any opportunity to promote their products,” Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi told The Jakarta Post.

A new health law regulation comes into force next month that bans front-page ads like this, although many other kinds of tobacco promotion will still be legal.

This incident shows why Indonesia needs to stiffen its tobacco control laws. Given the chance, tobacco companies pull stunts like this – while spending millions every day to market their deadly products to children. As long as Indonesia’s laws are weak, tobacco companies will continue to thumb their noses at efforts to improve health and save lives.