Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta
The continued might of Indonesia’s far-reaching tobacco industry is being questioned, with the House of Representatives and an influential ulema group calling for anti-smoking laws.
Legislator Atte Sugandi of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party said Monday a bill being pushed for deliberation by the House would curb tobacco-related advertising, promotions, sponsorships, production and sales.
“Once it is passed into law, there will be no retail cigarette sales for students,” he said on the sidelines of a seminar on tobacco farmers.
The House will set up a special committee before the year’s end to deliberate the bill, a move that has been delayed for three years.
“We expect to pass the bill before our term ends next year,” Atte said of the draft, which has 87 articles.
“We are extremely worried about the recent development as most activities ranging from sports to education are sponsored by tobacco companies. They also sponsor students who want to pursue master’s degrees at the University of Indonesia, which is extremely dangerous,” he said.
He blamed the government’s poor monitoring and law enforcement for the excessive cigarette advertising.
Deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Ma’ruf Amin said ulema from across the country would gather in a West Sumatra town in January next year to discuss the issue of smoking.
“We have so far received many opinions from Muslims about smoking. Many ask the MUI to issue an edict banning Muslims from smoking, some others reject the idea,” said Ma’ruf, who heads the fatwa commission.
“It’s a tough issue to deal with, therefore we will handle it with care.”
Anti-smoking groups have repeatedly called on the government to take measures to reduce cigarette consumption in the country.
The government has rejected the request, citing the millions of jobs that would be at stake in the sector.
A recent survey by the University of Indonesia’s (UI) School of Economics shows that tobacco farmers earn Rp 413,347 on average per month, far lower than the average minimum monthly wage of Rp 883,693.
“We found that 65 percent of the surveyed tobacco farmers wanted to shift jobs to become (rice) paddy farmers or vendors. So, the government’s argument is wrong, only a few people benefit from tobacco,” UI researcher Abdillah Ahsan said.