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MAC update February 2016


Indonesian Finance Ministry asked to revoke award to tobacco industry


Jakarta: Indonesia continues to move in the wrong direction on tobacco control. Recently the Ministry of Finance awarded four top tobacco companies for their high tax contributions and for increasing the country’s income from tobacco tax. In reality it is smokers who pay the tobacco tax, not the companies who merely collect the tax from the smokers and hand over to the government.

Awarding tobacco companies for tax sends the wrong message as it implies the government endorses high tobacco use. An international petition has been launched by health advocates calling upon the government to revoke the award to the tobacco companies.

Last year, the Ministry of Industry, through a regulation (62/M-IND/PER/8/2015) sealed an official policy to increase cigarette stick production in Indonesia– from 341billion sticks in 2013 to increase to 524 billion sticks by 2020. Internationally the government stands alone in having an explicit policy and regulation to increase cigarette stick production.

In another unfortunate move the Indonesian President sealed a deal with Philip Morris International (PMI) to invest $1.9billion in the country. The investment includes Sampoerna factory expansion in the coming five years, 2016 to 2020. Surely a bigger operation can only mean more cigarettes – disease and death – for Indonesians.  

Tobacco use is destructive and it impoverishes Indonesians. According to Department of Statistics, tobacco is the biggest contributor to poverty in Indonesia and is the second highest expenditure by the poor, after rice.

Two out of every three Indonesian men smoke. According to national surveys, smoking prevalence among Indonesian men rose from 53% in 1995 to 65% in 2013, driven by cheap and affordable cigarettes. Cheap cigarettes have grown threefold from 5% in 2009 to about 16% in 2014 and are projected to further increase to about 19% in 2019.

Thailand: Health professionals expose Philip Morris’ interference in policy making 


Bangkok: Thai health advocates exposed how Philip Morris International (PMI) Thailand continues to interfere in tobacco control policies. At a press conference Assoc. Prof Dr. Lakkhana Termsirikulchai revealed, “Common tactics of the industry include mobilizing front-groups to oppose tobacco control measures, opposing enlarged pictorial health warning legislation and conducting so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) to increase its public profile.”

“In the past 20 years ago, whenever the cabinet plans to launch new tobacco control policies, PMI sends representatives to meet with members of National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and relevant ministers to oppose the policies,” said Mr. Wasin Piphattanachat, legal advisor, Thailand health Promotion Institute.

“PMI has tried several ways to stop the new tobacco control law – trying to participate in legal procedure, setting up front groups supposedly to represent tobacco farmers’ interests but oppose the law, submitting a petition to the members of NLA and distributing pseudo-academic information to support tobacco industry,” Mr. Paisan said.

Reference: Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Center (TRC), press release, 17 February 2016