Health Ministry study shows smoking among Indonesian youth rising

Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

Indonesia’s Health Ministry today released its latest Basic Health Survey (Riskesdas) and among its many worrying statistics about the the wellbeing of Indonesia’s population, one that is especially worrying pertains to the country’s youth.

According to this year’s Riskesdas, the number of smokers aged between 10-18 has jumped to 9.1% from the 7.2% recorded in the last edition of Riskesdas in 2013. The survey did not specify exactly how many people this amounts to, but considering that the government’s official estimate for the population of Indonesians aged 10-19 is more than 40 million, the survey would indicate that around 4 million Indonesian youths have picked up the harmful habit.

“To change this behavior we must create family empowerment programs, meaning we must go to each family to educate, inform and push them to be healthy families,” Health Minister Nila F Moeloek told reporters today, as quoted by Detik.

The figure is almost twice the 5.4% rate that the government’s had previously targeted to reduce underage smoking to by this year.

Dr. Siswanto, head of the ministry’s Research and Health Development Body, which carried out the survey, said one likely solution to push down the percentage is to increase cigarette prices so they’re out of reach of more teenagers.

But any measure to further regulate tobacco in Indonesia has always been easier said than done. For one, 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, the House of Parliament in 2017 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 the national government’s unwillingness to pass tobacco controls means that not much is being done to prevent another generation of Indonesian children from being turned into young smokers. 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).

Age groups aside, 67.4 percent of all men over 15 in Indonesia are tobacco users (the highest rate in the world) and tobacco-related diseases kill at least 200,000 Indonesians per year.

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