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Jakarta Post: Indonesia to accede to tobacco treaty before 2014

from Nadya Natahadibrata of the Jakarta Post:

Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said that Indonesia would finally accede to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) before the end of this year, a major step in the fight against prevalent smoking addiction.

“The treaty accession will be completed through a presidential decree. The President has agreed [to accede to the treaty]. God willing we will accede to the treaty before the end of the year,” Nafsiah said.

As previously reported Nafsiah said that three ministries, namely the Trade Ministry, Industry Ministry and the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, had previously rejected the accession, and added that it would hurt tobacco farmers and reduce the state’s income in tobacco excise, which had a big contribution to the state budget.

“All three ministries have agreed to accede to the treaty. They have agreed that the accession is solely aimed at protecting the public,” Nafsiah told reporters on the sidelines of the closing ceremony of National Health Day on Friday.

According to Nafsiah, the government is currently drafting the text to be submitted to the Foreign Ministry before being signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In 2003, all WHO member states, including Indonesia, approved a World Health Assembly resolution that mandated the establishment of a framework convention on tobacco control.

According to Nafsiah, Indonesia has been very active in formulating the FCTC in 2002-2003, yet Indonesia is the only ASEAN member country that has not ratified the treaty.

The treaty is aimed at promoting public health by monitoring tobacco use, protecting people from tobacco smoke, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising as well as raising taxes on tobacco products.

Data from the Health Ministry showed that around 260,000 Indonesians died from tobacco-related illnesses last year. About 25,000 of them were not smokers but exposed to cigarette smoke in their surroundings.

Despite rejection from other ministries, the Health Ministry’s efforts to curb tobacco addiction also faced severe opposition from the local tobacco industry as well as the House of Representatives, who have been saying the treaty is backed by foreign tobacco industries.

In 2009, House’s Commission IX on health and welfare affairs proposed a bill on the impact of tobacco products. The House’s legislation body (Baleg) turned it down, citing the huge socioeconomic implications of the bill for many citizens, particularly tobacco farmers.

Ratifying the treaty on tobacco control had been difficult. Tobacco farmers rally in Jakarta in fear that the treaty would affect their livelihoods. (Jakarta Post/Jerry Adiguna)

In 2011, the commission revised the bill and proposed it under a new name: the bill on public health protection from the threats of cigarettes and similar products. The bill, which was adapted from the FCTC, was later rejected.

Poempida Hidayatulloh of the House’s Commission IX claimed that the tobacco industry provided jobs for 6 million people.

“It is very clear that the tobacco industry creates jobs for the public. Why would the government want to disrupt that?” Poempida, who is also a Golkar lawmaker, said on Thursday. “It seems that the government is being influenced by foreign interests, lest we lose our sovereignty by accepting FCTC,” he continued.

According to Coordinating people’s Welfare Minister Agung Laksono, by acceding to the treaty, Indonesia is not obliged to follow all of its protocols and its implementation would be adjusted to the state’s laws.

“All ministries have come to an agreement that Indonesia should not be left behind in controlling the impact of tobacco, especially for young people. The accession of this treaty will not disturb our sovereignty,” Agung said.

16 Nov 2013

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