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Indonesia

Southeast Asia: Indonesia lags in curbing tobacco industry interference in policy making

11 Oct, 16 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Indonesia has once again emerged as a clear laggard in curbing tobacco industry interference in policy-making, according to a report ranking countries in the Southeast Asia region based on their level of implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It is the third annual report on tobacco industry interference prepared by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

Indonesia is the only country whose score increased in both the 2015 and 2016 reports among the seven surveyed in all three years (Brunei, Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Indonesia). Its 2014 score of 78 (the first year of the survey) reflected a very high level of interference, and exceeds the scores of all other countries in any year of the survey. Indonesia’s score has continued to worsen, and stands at 84 in the 2016 report. The maximum possible score is 100; a higher score reflects a greater level of interference.

fig-5-seatca-rankings

Ranking of countries in the Southeast Asia region by tobacco industry interference, as calculated by SEATCA. Source: 2015 ASEAN report on implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dismal result is a stark illustration of why Indonesia, one of only a handful of countries that has not signed the FCTC, is a tobacco control ‘rogue state’. The country achieved worldwide infamy in 2010 when a video of a smoking toddler went viral. The video prompted increased media coverage of the striking absence of effective tobacco control policies and regulation in Indonesia, a situation which tobacco companies have taken full advantage of to saturate the country in cigarette advertising.

The Global Adults Tobacco Survey (GATS) of 15 low and middle income countries with high tobacco use published in 2012 found that Indonesia was among the countries with the highest adult male smoking prevalence at 67%. The lax regulations extend to failure to protect Indonesians from secondhand smoke; the GATS also found that 85% of people who visited restaurants were exposed to tobacco smoked and 82% reported seeing cigarette advertising within the last month – exposure far higher than any other country surveyed. Unsurprisingly, Indonesia’s (male) youth smoking prevalence is among the highest in the world; according to the 2014 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 35% of boys aged 13-15 are current smokers.

At the other end of the scale, the standout countries in the 2016 report were Brunei and the Philippines. Brunei was ranked first for the third year in a row with a score of 29, unchanged from 2014 and 2015. The Philippines has seen a dramatic improvement from a score of 71 in 2014 down to 38 in 2016. Cambodia and Malaysia have also shown consistent improvement from their 2014 scores to be ranked equal fourth at a score of 49 in 2016.

The SEATCA report can be accessed by clicking here. 

Southeast Asia: new tobacco tax index

11 Oct, 15 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

The world’s first tobacco taxation index by a civil society organisation has been published by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). The report monitors implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 6 guidelines on price and tax measures.

Southeast Asia is home to approximately 10% of the world’s 1 billion smokers and is a prime growth market for tobacco companies.

The report can be accessed by clicking this link.

SEATCA report

Indonesia: tobacco pack warnings need stronger enforcement

8 Feb, 15 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Widyastuti Soerojo, Southeast Asia Initiative on Tobacco Tax

As reported in the September 2014 edition of News Analysis, pictorial health warnings (PHW) on cigarette packs in Indonesia were due to be implemented in June 2014. The Indonesian government approved the warnings, after a lengthy process, under Article 114 of the Health Law No 36/2009, with 18 months lead-in time from approval to implementation.

Considering Indonesian tobacco companies have been exporting cigarette packs with pictorial warnings to neighbouring countries for many years, 18 months was extremely generous to the tobacco industry before mandating Indonesians receive the same information as other people in the region about smoking’s dangers. Nonetheless, by 24 June, only about 13% of brands were reported to be compliant with the new law. The tobacco industry was then given a further two months to comply, bringing the transition period to a total of 20 months.

The Faculty of Public Health, University of Indonesia coordinated a survey in the last week of August 2014 – the end of the extended implementation period – to assess the progress of compliance at points of sales (POS). The survey was done in 54 subdistricts of seven cities of seven provinces in Java, including the capital Jakarta and less densely populated outer islands. The National Commission for Child Protection together with researchers from universities in Banda Aceh, Pontianak, Makassar, Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya surveyed 525 POS. Each covered 10 randomly selected POS in five categories: distributor to retailer, supermarket, minimarket, kiosk and vendor.

No cigarette brand variants assessed in the survey fully complied with the pictorial health warning requirement at all POS sites. Between 40-60% of brand variants were non-compliant (had no PHW at all), and 4-5% were partially compliant (had a PHW, but with other violations of the law such as excise stamps obscuring the warning on the packs). In addition to pictorial health warnings, information is also required on all packs to advise that there is “no safe level” of tobacco use and that cigarette smoke “contains more than 4,000 hazardous chemicals and more than 43 cancer-causing agents”. No domestic brands of the top five manufacturers provided this information.

Five of the largest tobacco companies, which collectively control 90% of the market, showed low compliance. Bentoel/British American Tobacco (BAT) was the worst offender, with non compliance between 63-90% in six of the survey sites. BAT had distributed a notice to retailers providing misleading information that production of packs with new PHW would only begin after June 24, and retailers can continue selling old stocks without a deadline. Even shops located right outside tobacco factories in Surabaya were selling packs without PHW.

The packs that did carry the new pictorial warnings created strong reactions from smokers, consistent with the evidence from other countries. The pattern was similar in all cities, with the most common reaction to look for packs with no PHW (52-96%), or choose the least scary picture – one which shows a “smoking man” with a skull background (68-95%).

In Makassar, more than 30% of smokers expressed feelings of disgust, fright, thoughts of buying single sticks, looking for non-PHW packs in other POS, no desire to smoke, perceived change in taste, and “accused” the industry of reducing the amount of cloves and flavouring in the cigarettes. The head of Gudang Garam distributors in Makassar had earlier expressed concern that the PHW had an impact and was seeing declining sales. Similar smoker responses were recorded in other survey sites.

Smokers negatively affected by PHWs resorted to several ways of obscuring pictures on packs, such as covering them with stickers showing attractive women, asking the shopkeeper for a dark tape to cover the PHW, putting the pack inside a case and even discarding the pack altogether in favour of alternatives. Sampoerna’s “A Mild” branded metal cases were found available for sale after June 24.

Such consumer reactions suggest that most Indonesian smokers previously were not fully aware of the many dangers of tobacco use. The strong reactions the PHW evoked are consistent with those of smokers everywhere, and provide positive feedback that PHW are effective, even among those heavily addicted. This explains why the tobacco industry strongly opposes PHW policy in Indonesia in the same ways it opposes effective tobacco control measures globally; first by filing a case in the Constitutional Court, then intentionally misinterpreting the effective date of implementation, and now delaying compliance even after the generous 20 months after the deadline for full implementation.

The Food and Drug Authority responsible for enforcement has given the industry ample time and warnings for compliance. It is time for the government to take serious action against the industry’s prolonged and continuing violations of the regulations which, if implemented properly, will set Indonesia on the path to reversing the epidemic for which the country pays such a high health, social and economic price.

Indonesia: court upholds tobacco tax to fund health

4 Oct, 14 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Abdillah Ahsan
Faculty of Economics, University of Indonesia

Good news on tobacco control from Indonesia is rare. Recently, however there was a victory in the area of tobacco tax.

On 1 January 2014, Law No. 28 of 2009 on regional taxes was introduced, which allows local provinces in Indonesia to charge a local tax to cigarettes. The tariff is 10% of cigarette excise.

This tax collectively amounts to about USD 796 Million, a significant sum. Following successful international examples for funding tobacco control, a minimum of 50% of the funds raised from the tax are to be used for health promotion, in particular through public anti-smoking campaigns and enforcing smoke free public spaces. This means local governments have the authority to decide on strengthening tobacco control measures for their provinces and cities.

Unfortunately, five smokers challenged this cigarette tax policy in the Constitutional Court, calling for its abolition. Their argument was that the policy harms the constitutional rights of cigarette smokers as consumers by requiring them to pay both excise tax and local cigarette tax. They argued this amounts to double taxation, which is prohibited by the tax law and is unjust.

However public health won, and the suit was rejected by the Constitutional Court in May 19, 2014. In the judgment, the Court stated that in accordance with Law No. 11/1995 on Excise Tax, the subject of excise tax is manufacturers, distributors, and importers, while its object includes cigarettes, cigars, tobacco leaf and tobacco strips. In the provisions of Articles 26 and 27 of the Local Tax Law on the other hand, the object of local cigarette taxes is consumption of cigarettes and the subject of this tax is cigarette consumers. “Thus, there is a difference between the object and the subject of excise tax in comparison to the object and subject of local cigarette tax,” said one of the Constitutional Judges.

The Court ruled that the cigarette excise tax paid together with local cigarette tax is the “politics of taxation” to increase state revenues as well as provide compensation on the negative health impacts of smoking. According to the judge, “Simultaneous excise tax and local cigarette tax have positive impact on reducing cigarette consumption and improve society’s health.”

Several benefits will arise from the Court’s rejection of the suit and implementation of the tax. The first is that the local cigarette tax will increase cigarette prices, thereby making cigarettes less affordable, and in turn likely direct reducing smoking uptake among children. The second benefit is local governments will receive increased funds as revenue to go towards local development and increased living standards. A third benefit is the increased funding available to be used exclusively for health promotion and law enforcement. This includes anti-tobacco campaigns and strengthened enforcement of tobacco control regulations such as non smoking areas.

Together, these measures will change the scenario of tobacco control at the local level and enhance local government efforts to better protect children and the poor from the harms of tobacco. It represents a welcome step forward in a country that has been dubbed a paradise for tobacco companies due to lax regulation.

#DortmundKills campaign: the legal, moral and ethical case against Inter-tabac Asia

30 Jan, 14 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

As reported in News Analysis in the January edition of Tobacco Control, the Dortmund city-owned company Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH (Germany) is organising Inter-tabac Asia, a trade fair for the tobacco industry, to be held on the Indonesian island of Bali on 27 & 28 February. An international campaign against the event has attracted support from around the world, and a petition on change.org has been signed by more than 11,5000 people. The Dortmund mayor has indicated he will refuse to receive the petition. Meanwhile, the Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has reportedly blocked the fair, drawing praise from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

On January 10, Pascal Diethelm, President of Swiss NGO OxyRomandie, joined nearly 18 international health organisations and German politicians in sending an open letter to the mayor of Dortmund, the Honourable Ullrich Sierau, urging the cancellation of Inter-tabac Asia 2014. On 23 January, he received a reply from Dr Andreas Weber, from the Marketing and Corporate Communications Department at Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH. In it, Dr Weber advises that the trade fair is directed at professional visitiors, and that children and young people are not permitted. He goes on to state: Tobacco is a legal product in Indonesia, as it is in Germany. Economic stakeholders therefore have a right to a trading platform of this kind, as in any other industry. Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH respects all political laws and regulations in countries where it organises trade fairs and will of course continue to do so in the future.”

Mr Diethelm’s response, reproduced in full below, outlines how Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund Gmbh’s organisation of Inter-tabac likely breaches Germany’s legal obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco or Health, as well as the moral and ethical implications of its involvement:

Dear Mr Dr Weber,

Thank you for communicating to us the position of Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH concerning the organization of Inter-tabac ASIA 2014 by the city of Dortmund.

Unfortunately, I have to say that your company’s statement misses our point entirely.

The official implication of the municipality of Dortmund in such an event, even indirectly through your company, of which the city of Dortmund is the sole shareholder, clearly violates Germany’s legal obligations emanating from article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty ratified by your country on 16 December 2004. The treaty was also ratified by the European Union on 30 June 2005 and all EU Member States are now Parties to the treaty, which could therefore be also considered as providing a European  legal framework for tobacco control.

The Guidelines on Article 5.3 of the treaty (see attached German translation) indicate to parties how to fulfill their obligations emanating from the Convention. The city of Dortmund breaches several key dispositions of these Guidelines:

–      It violates point 2.1 which states that “Parties should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate  the tobacco industry and tobacco products.” The organization of Inter-tabac ASIA by the city of Dortmund can hardly be described as “strictly necessary.”

–      It violates point 3.1, which states that “Parties should not accept, support or endorse partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements as well as any voluntary arrangement with the tobacco industry or any entity or person working to further its interests.” The organization of Inter-tabac ASIA will inevitably lead the city of Dortmund, via Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH, to conclude multiples agreements with the tobacco companies who are exhibitors in the tobacco trade fair.

–      It violates point 4.7, which states that “Government institutions and their bodies should not have any financial interest in the tobacco industry.” By organizing Inter-tabac ASIA, the city of Dortmund has a vested interest in the tobacco industry. The return on its investment is directly linked to the commercial success of its exhibitors, the tobacco companies.

–      It violates point 7.1, which states that “Parties should not grant incentives, privileges or benefits to the tobacco industry to establish or run their businesses.” By facilitating their business in Asia, the city of Dortmund grants privilege and benefits to the tobacco industry.

Your company’s statement misses the point in even a more worrying way. You company does not seem to understand, or even have minimal appreciation, of the ethical and moral implications of the decision of the city of Dortmund to organize a trade fair in Bali aimed at promoting tobacco in Indonesia and Asia.

Currently, tobacco kills 6 million people per year and this toll continues to rise while it is at the same time shifting from the highly developed world to lower income countries. In the 20th Century, tobacco was responsible for 100 million deaths. If nothing is done to change the course of the tobacco epidemic, the World Health Organization and all public health authorities predict that the number of tobacco deaths will reach 1 billion in the 21th Century.

In Indonesia, where over two-thirds of the men smoke and where the age of initiation of smoking is commonly below 10, the toll caused by tobacco is taking genocidal proportions. Tobacco kills 260’000 Indonesians each year and this number is rising rapidly. Nowhere in the world can we witness a more striking manifestation of what professor Robert Proctor, historian of science at the University of Stanford, calls the Golden Holocaust.(1)

In such a context, we were stupefied when we read that your company, Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH, and therefore the city of Dortmund, feel comfortable with having contributed to this Golden Holocaust for 30 years, as it claims to have done it “with integrity”. This line of defense evokes some of the darkest memories, having connotations of what Hannah Arendt calls “the banality of evil.

Fortunately, there are people in this world with a conscience, a high sense of morality and who are prepared to act in conformance with their values. This is the case of our tobacco control colleagues in Indonesia, who, with insignificant means compared to the financial power of the tobacco industry, are fighting with courage and determination to reduce the tobacco epidemic in their country and eliminate the grip tobacco multinationals have on it. Over the recent days, they scored a major victory by rallying the support of the Governor of Mali, Made Mangku Pastika. The Governor has publicly announced his commitment to prevent Inter-tabac ASIA from taking place in his province. He has issued orders that no permit be granted to the tobacco trade fair.

This decision of a man with real integrity sends a clear signal to the city of Dortmund, whose reputation is being tarnished in this affair. Let us hope Mr. Ullrich Sierau listens and learns the lesson and does not miss this opportunity to get better educated in the ethical and moral implications of the tobacco trade.(2)

The ties between Dortmund and the tobacco industry are indeed highly detrimental to the city’s reputation: a lot of people in the world now know Dortmund mainly through the slogan “Dortmund Kills.” Your company and the mayor should realize that the city’s involvement in Inter-tabac is irremediably doomed – soon or later, Dortmund will have to give up all activities linked – directly or indirectly – to the tobacco industry and comply with the legal requirements of the FCTC. The tobacco issue is not going to fade away – on the contrary, it is now considered a priority risk factor in the global fight against non-communicable diseases.

Today, the FCTC has 177 Parties, covering 90% of the population of the world. Situations where a public institution is in bed with the tobacco industry are no longer acceptable and will be increasingly targeted as aberrations to eliminate. It is illusory to think that Dortmund’s Inter-tabac will escape this worldwide phenomenon. The sooner Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH will cut all links with the tobacco industry, the better and less painful the process will be. On behalf of my association, I urge your company and the mayor of Dortmund to do it without delay.

Yours sincerely,

Pascal Diethelm

(1)   Proctor, Robert N. (2012). Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition. Berkeley: University of California Press.ISBN 9780520270169

(2)   For example, see : Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (2005). Die Tabakindustriedokumente I: Chemische eränderungen an Zigaretten und Tabakabhängigkeit, Heidelberg (https://www.dkfz.de/…/Tabakindustriedokumente_I.pdf)

 

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