Anti-smoking groups slam ‘veiled promotions’
JAKARTA: Anti-smoking groups in Indonesia have slammed Big Tobacco for promoting sales by giving retailers cash rewards, shopping vouchers and even money to renovate, urging authorities to enforce advertising curbs to safeguard public health.
The country with one of the highest smoking rates in the world does have a national regulation in place to restrict cigarette advertisements, including a ban on tobacco firms promoting their products while acting as a sponsor. But it is inconsistently enforced by regional authorities.
Cigarette makers make the most of this, tying up with small retailers and rewarding them for in-store promotion of products, the anti-smoking groups say.
By mid-last year, Philip Morriscontrolled PT Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna Tbk, PT Gudang Garam Tbk and Djarum Group had partnered with 513 shopowners in four cities here, a study by the Indonesian Public Health Association (Iakmi) showed.
Cigarette companies have stepped up “veiled promotions” following a move by the Jakarta governor two years ago to ban all cigarette advertising on outdoor media, Iakmi said.
A shop-owner in Tangerang, west of Jakarta, said as a Sampoerna partner, he had to follow the company’s display requirements for its products and is not allowed to sell other cigarette brands.
In return, Sampoerna had given him free cigarette packs, shopping vouchers, banners and even a million rupiah (RM320) to paint his shop.
Cigarette advertisements are often found at small shops near schools, making children extremely vulnerable, said Lisda Sundari, head of the Lanterns for Children Foundation.
A shocking video of a toddler puffing up to 40 cigarettes a day in Sumatra went viral seven years ago, firing up anti-tobacco activists who said it underscored the problem of underage smoking in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s cigarette market was the second-biggest in the world after China, with 316.1 billion sticks sold last year. Reuters