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Fighting Big Tobacco in Indonesia and Africa

January 29, 2014


Indonesia and Africa are among Big Tobacco’s top targets as the industry increasingly targets low- and middle-income countries in its insatiable quest for profit, no matter the cost in lives and health.

Recent news stories document both the enormous challenges posed by the tobacco epidemic in these countries and regions – and the growing call for strong action to rein in the tobacco industry and save lives.

A Step Forward in Bali

Indonesia has some of the world’s weakest tobacco control laws and is the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to ratify the international tobacco control treaty, the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. As a result, tobacco marketing is rampant throughout the country, the tobacco industry regularly sponsors concerts featuring music stars popular with youth and tobacco takes a huge toll, killing more than 200,000 people each year.

In this tobacco playground, Bali is setting a more positive example, first with a strong law requiring smoke-free public places and now by refusing to host the world’s largest tobacco trade fair. According to The Jakarta Post, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has declined to host the Inter-Tabac Asia trade fair, which was scheduled for February 27-28.

“The Bali governor has put his people’s interests above others,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. “His stance stands as an example all world leaders should emulate. Bali, one of the world's most popular tourism destinations, has given fresh air to the world.”

Global Post has more on the tobacco industry’s targeting of Indonesia.

A Huge Challenge in Africa

In Africa, a story by Think Africa Press details how Philip Morris International and other multinational tobacco companies are bombarding countries with marketing that appeals to kids and ruthlessly fighting efforts to reduce tobacco use.

“All of us, all of my friends smoke,” Destiny, a 14-year-old boy, told the reporter. “We see [tobacco advertisements] everywhere, and the cigarettes are cheap.”

Most African countries have yet to restrict or ban tobacco marketing, cigarettes carry aspirational-sounding names such as High Society and Champion, and they can be bought for a few cents per single stick.

Horrifyingly, according to Think Africa Press, “Single cigarettes are also used by some youths as appetite suppressants, especially in areas where adequate nutrition can be hard to come by. Asked if he and his friends have had their lunch, Destiny looks at his half-lit cigarette and replies, ‘this is much better, no?’.”

“It is because of these marketing ploys of the tobacco companies that tobacco control advocates in Africa are pushing for strong comprehensive tobacco control that will protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use,” Enó Isong of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids told Think Africa Press.