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Indonesian Community Organizations Sue Government For Negligence in Protecting Citizen’s Health from Tobacco

Lawsuit Asserts Comprehensive Tobacco Control Regulations Must be Implemented
June 19, 2008

Washington, D.C. – Four Indonesian community organizations filed a lawsuit on June 19 against the Indonesian government for neglecting to protect citizen’s from the devastating health impact of tobacco.

The suit asserts that by its failure to regulate tobacco, the Indonesian government has violated the rights of Indonesians’ in contravention of its 1945 Constitution, consumer rights laws, child protection laws, advertising laws and other Indonesian laws. The goal of the lawsuit aims to force the Indonesian government to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco control and enact meaningful tobacco control regulations.

“Far from regulating the tobacco industry and protecting our health, the government’s economic development plan lists tobacco as a top 10 industry to promote,” said Tulus Abadi, board member of the Indonesian Consumers Federation, YLKI. “In rural and poor areas, Indonesians spend more money on tobacco than we do on education, healthcare, and any food item besides rice.'

'While up to 20 percent of deaths in Indonesia are caused by tobacco each year, our government is more focused on protecting the tobacco companies’ profits,” he said.

Currently, more than 58 percent of men and 26 percent of children in Indonesia smoke. Indonesia can reduce tobacco use among its children and adults by implementing the scientifically proven measures called for by the international tobacco control treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Yet the Parliament has not put FCTC ratification or the draft tobacco control law on the National Legislative Agenda, despite having more than the necessary number of endorsements from members of Parliament.

“Ratifying the international tobacco control treaty is one of the most important steps Indonesia can take to protect the health of its citizen,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This lawsuit should send a strong message to Indonesian government leaders.

The fight against the tobacco industry will not stop until strong tobacco control legislation is passed that will reduce tobacco use and save lives.”

The FCTC has been ratified by every Southeast Asia country except for Indonesia, and formally endorsed by all but 15 of the world’s nations. Only 5.2 percent of the world’s population is not protected by the FCTC, and Indonesia represents 70 percent of that unprotected population. The treaty calls for nations to:

  • ban tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships;
  • require large, graphic health warnings on tobacco products;
  • enact smoke-free air laws that apply to all workplaces and public places;
  • raise the price of tobacco products by significantly increasing tobacco taxes; and
  • fund and implement effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

'Our government cannot stand by and do nothing while the toll tobacco takes on our economy and health becomes more and more clear,” said Abadi.

“Children are starting to smoke as young as 5, the number of tobacco related deaths is increasing and the majority of those using tobacco live in poor areas, where money would be better invested in food and education. It is time for the government to pass the regulations needed to protect the health of our people.”

The lawsuit has been filed in the Central Jakarta District Court against the President, Vice President, Ministry of Health, Head of the House of Representatives and the Legislative Body. The court has four weeks to set a hearing date from the date of filing.