Indonesian Cigarette Companies Are Not Complying With New Health Risk Labeling Laws

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Despite efforts to deter teens from smoking, cigarette companies are not complying with new regulations to label the health risks on packs of smokes. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest tobacco markets, and with one of the highest smoking rates in the world, they’re not too worried about sales dropping from new warning labels because they're not complying. The goverment gave them until Tuesday to label their products. However, it doesn’t seem like the companies are making moves toward labeling, according to the National Commission for Child Protection. Companies have had a year and a half to prepare warning photos that are supposed to cover 40 percent of the cigarette packs, but so far, nothing has been labeled.

"Starting today, cigarette producers must start to print the warning" of the health hazards smoking can pose, said Minister of Social Welfare Agung Laksono, The Wall Street Journal reported. Packets that don't have the warning will be taken off the market over the next two to three months, he said, and violators will be subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of the equivalent of $41,667.

Only six brands complied with this ruling — that’s two companies out of 3,393 brands produced by 672 companies in Indonesia. The government has been trying to make efforts to discourage smoking by prohibiting cigarette commercials from airing before 10 p.m., banning smoking in some public areas, and changing the legal age to buy cigarettes to 17. These laws were not heavily enforced.

Cigarette makers in Indonesia are known for their pungent "kretek" clove and tobacco cigarettes. And this new label doesn’t seem like it will have an impact on the current smokers. "It seems like the health warning does not have a significant impact on sales in the countries that have implemented this. We shall see if it will have any impact on our sales," said Surjanto Yasaputera, corporate secretary of PT Wismilak Inti Makmur, a small cigarette manufacturer, Fox News reported. “Our target is to increase that by 20 percent to 25 percent this year. For now we still maintain this target."

According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of tobacco use is high among teens: 3.3 percent of males and 2.3 percent of females smoke — that’s higher than the adult population.

The WHO finds that nearly six million people each year die from smoking cigarettes. More than five million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. They estimate that if more practice efforts are not made, the death toll could rise to more than eight million people by 2030. 

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