Indonesia: PMI plans to increase profits by selling stronger cigarettes

Indonesia continues to move the wrong direction with PMI’s Sampoerna announcing it’s plans to aggressively market ‘stronger-flavoured’ cigarettes this year. Last year around $16 billion worth of cigarettes were sold in Indonesia which is regarded as one of the world’s fastest growing markets for cigarettes.

What exactly does ‘stronger-flavour’ mean? More clove infused in the Kretek? Or more nicotine in the cancer sticks to keep smokers addicted and smoking more?

Many countries are taking steps towards banning flavorings in cigarettes. The WHO FCTC, ratified by 180 countries, calls countries to prohibit or restrict flavouring in cigarettes. Articles 9 & 10 Guidelines state, “From the perspective of public health, there is no justification for permitting the use of ingredients, such as flavouring agents, which help make tobacco products attractive.” The Guidelines recommend, “Parties should regulate, by prohibiting or restricting, ingredients that may be used to increase palatability in tobacco products.” Countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada and the European Union have banned flavouring in cigarettes.

Sampoerna launched its stronger-flavoured “U Bold” brand cigarettes last year in 10 cities across Java. Since there is no advertising ban yet in Indonesia, the promotion was aggressive – on billboards, via twitter with its own hashtag, private parties, on youtube, and of course, with young people promoting it.  

It is sold in kiddie packs of 12 sticks per pack, with each stick containing a high 32mg tar and 2.1mg nicotine. Sampoerna’s taste is indeed poison for public health. Sampoerna is irresponsibly calling these high levels of nicotine and tar ‘strong-flavour’ when actually these cancer sticks are very harmful.

For information on TI denormalization, check out SEATCA’s Tobacco Industry Watch website

Previous ASEAN Tobacco Watch updates can be found here