Indonesia To Restrict E-Cigarettes while Tobacco Remains off the Hook

Indonesia is set to restrict the sales of e-cigarette materials, with the Trade Minister also telling users of the products to turn to tobacco cigarettes instead, which are sold freely in the country despite killing hundreds of thousands of the population each year.

The new regulation, which will go into effect early next year, will require vendors of vapor products to obtain a combination of special government licenses, which could take years to acquire.

The decision has been met with disgruntlement among the growing number of e-cigarette users in the country, but the Trade Minister Enggartisto Lukita quickly offered a solution when he told Kompas e-cigarette smokers can just, “become regular smokers.”

The statement did not go down well with anti-tobacco activists in a country where over 200,000 people already die of tobacco-related causes each year. It is even more puzzling given the fact that many experts have declared that they believe the effect of e-cigarettes is not as harmful as addiction to traditional cigarettes.

Inevitably, this has led to another discussion on the power of the tobacco industry on the government of Indonesia, which is the only country in the Asia-Pacific region to have not ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“The tobacco industry here is very strong. Unlike in most other countries now, they’re still perceived simply as a normal business and treated that way,” she said said Dr. Widyastuti Soerojo, head of the Tobacco Control Unit in the Indonesian Public Health Association, as quoted by The Washington Post. “We lack many control measures that are needed, and those rules we do have, like on advertising to children, often go unenforced.”

Indonesia’s lenient stance on tobacco is in contrast to the firm action it has taken against other substances, such as drugs – for which people are executed periodically – and alcohol – the sale of which is banned in convenience stores. According to Mark Hurley, communications director and former Indonesia country director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, this is mainly down to the lobbies by the tobacco companies.

“The big companies have convinced the government they are important for local [tobacco] farmers and for tax revenues,” he said. “But in reality, the costs of treating diseases caused by tobacco far outweigh any economic benefits.”

 

photo by Real English.com

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Ardi Wirdana is a Jakarta-based journalist covering a variety
of topics including business, policy, and news in Indonesia.


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