Depok getting tough on tobacco ads as city begins enforcing ban on retailers, malls

A photo of a not-so-subliminal cigarette billboard ad in Jakarta taken in 2013. Photo: Tobaccofreekids.org
A photo of a not-so-subliminal cigarette billboard ad in Jakarta taken in 2013. Photo: Tobaccofreekids.org

Indonesia has some of the most lax regulations in the world regarding tobacco advertising, with images of cigarettes and cigarette logos popping up practically everywhere, including in billboards, on TV, and even near schools.

But the city of Depok seems to have finally woken up to the dangers of constant exposure to tobacco ads as the city’s administration now appears serious about enforcing a four-year-old regulation against their presence in public areas.

This morning, the Depok city administration publicly announced that they had issued a circular to modern retailers and malls, signed by Mayor Mohammad Idris on Sept. 19, telling them to comply with a 2014 city regulation prohibiting the display of tobacco ads in their businesses.

“[The circular was issued] so that business owners, developers, or whoever is responsible complies with the regulation and begins to take down all ads promoting cigarettes,” Depok Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) head Yayan Arianto said today, as quoted by Warta Kota.

The 2015 tobacco ad regulation states that modern retailers and malls caught putting up tobacco advertisement may be subject to an IDR50 million (US$3,354) fine and risk having their business permits pulled.

Those affected by the regulation have two weeks from today to start taking down tobacco ads before the city enforces sanctions. However, this does not mean that the affected business are prohibited from selling cigarettes.

The effects of Indonesia’s deadly relationship with smoking has been well documented, with around 67.4 percent of all men over 15 in Indonesia being tobacco users (the highest rate in the world) and tobacco-related diseases killing at least 200,000 Indonesians per year. The government has shown little willingness to combat the country’s smoking epidemic, failing to pass national laws banning tobacco advertising and refusing to ratify the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

In fact, in 2017, the House of Parliament tried to pass a tobacco bill aimed at rolling back regulations, including those on advertisement as well as health warnings on cigarette packs.

Luckily, that bill never passed into law, but, statistics-wise, Indonesia still has a hard time butting out and the ubiquity of tobacco advertising pretty much guarantees that the country will continue producing new generations of smokers if more drastic steps aren’t taken. One study in 2016 found that around 30% of all Indonesian children have smoked a cigarette before the age of 10 (one of those, of course, being Indonesia’s infamous smoking baby).

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