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Indonesia Minister of Health Joins Union World No Tobacco Day National Webinar, Calls for Increased Pictorial Health Warnings and Youth Focus

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On 1 June, The Union, in coordination with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Association of all Indonesia Health Offices (ADINKES), and the WHO held a high-level webinar to commemorate World No Tobacco Day and launch the WHO’s “Commit to Quit” campaign.  Attended by over 1400 participants, the event highlighted how youth are affected by the global tobacco epidemic; discussed evidence-based strategies to reduce smoking prevalence; and built political commitment for tobacco control. Government officials, civil society members, students and the media attended via zoom and Youtube.

“Governments should ensure comprehensive tobacco control policies,” remarked Prof. Guy B Marks, President of The Union. “This includes access to a range of smoking cessation services, larger pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs, higher tobacco taxes, and other tools proven to help people quit. Community support should also be strengthened to provide social support to smokers in order to successfully carry out their plans.”

Nearly 34% of the Indonesian population uses tobacco, and that figure jumps to almost 63% for male use.  Each year, tobacco causes 266,000 deaths, with approximately 45,000 attributable to second-hand smoke exposure, according to the World Health Organization. Perhaps even more disconcerting is that the youth smoking rate is rising;  among youth, aged 13-15 years, the smoking prevalence increased from 18.3% to 19.2% between 2016 and 2019, according to the 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2019.

Minister of Health, Budi Gunadi Saidkin said that Pictorial Health Warnings (PHW) must be made larger. In addition to calling for multi-sector support for this and other tobacco control measures, he said it is critically important to engage youth in discussions about tobacco. 

“We need an honest dialogue on what young people really think about smoking and how we can help them quit,” he said.  “Their genuine aspirations and voices are crucial so we can create programs that really appeal to them.”

Twelve-year-old youth advocate Aldi Suganda also attended the event, ten years after he went viral as a two-year-old with a 40 cigarette a day habit.

“I’ve quit smoking, and I’m totally free of any toxic tobacco influence. I’m healthy now,” Sugando said, noting that his early childhood was marked by coughing, chest pains, and frequent shortness of breath.  “I beg my friends to stop smoking.”

Larger Pictorial Health Warnings (PHW) are considered critical to ending youth tobacco usage. Fortunately, Indonesia’s  Ministry of Health is leading the way to amend National Health Law PP109/2012. Changes in the amendment include increasing PHWs from 40% to 90%, alongside other measures like a comprehensive ban of Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship.

“Now is the time for Indonesia to think about the future of tobacco control,” said Dr Farrukh Qureshi, WHO, Indonesia. “Evidence shows that larger pictorial health warnings and plain packaging deter smokers.”