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Indonesian District rejects industry calls to weaken tobacco control policies

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The Union congratulates the Kulon Progo District Government in Indonesia, for rejecting calls from the tobacco industry affiliated Federation of Cigarette, Food and Beverage Worker’s Unions of Indonesia to revise its local tobacco control policies. During a public discussion, representatives of the organisation urged the district government to consider the inclusion of designated smoking rooms/areas in workplaces and public places, as well as creating spaces to conduct advertising and promotional activities. They argued that the strict policies have led to unemployment and lack of job opportunities, compounding what is already a difficult time for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. These representatives also requested that the government provide more welfare support for these industry workers.

Present at the event was the Vice Regent of Kulon Progo who rebutted the calls for a revision of local laws, saying that tobacco control policies are essential for a healthy environment and to protect the community from the dangers of tobacco smoke. He then called for support from all residents of Kulon Progo to abide by the current laws.

Echoing these statements, the head of the district health office added that tobacco use is a risk factor for many illnesses and non-communicable diseases, stressing that evidence has emerged that smoking can lead to a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as leading to poorer outcomes. Concluding, they said that for these reasons and more, tobacco control will remain a priority for the district health office of Kulon Progo.

Praising this move, Tara Singh Bam, Deputy Regional Director of The Union Asia Pacific Office said “Although, Indonesia has not signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the tobacco control movement at the subnational level is inspiring. So far, 278 cities/districts out of 514 have adopted comprehensive 100 percent smokefree policies. These policies protect more than 170 million people in Indonesia.”  

This progress has not gone unnoticed, the industry has been increasingly using their allies and front groups to try to interfere and dilute policies at every step. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry leaped at the opportunity to clean up their image in the form of Cooperate Social Responsibility donations. Struggling local governments are often vulnerable to such attempts. The Union recognises the importance of highlighting good examples and best practices, such as Kulon Progo, to inspire other leaders.

The Union provides strategic guidance and technical support to the local government of Kulon Progo.