If you know anything about smoking in Indonesia, you know it’s an enormous health problem of epidemic proportions. The government’s reliance on revenue from the tobacco industry has led to lax regulations that allow cigarette advertising to be nearly ubiquitous in many places (especially around schools) as well as some of the highest smoking rates in the world and well over 200,000 tobacco-related deaths per year.
But there are a few Indonesian officials who are standing up to the tobacco industry in an effort to protect young Indonesians. One of them is Padang Mayor Mahyeldi Ansharullah, who recently reaffirmed his commitment to making the West Sumatra capital totally free of cigarette advertisements by 2018.
According to Mahyeldi, his government had actually already prohibited new tobacco advertisements from going up and is simply waiting for the permits on the city’s remaining tobacco advertisements to expire.
“The decision to no longer accepts cigarette advertisements is not new. This has actually been the agenda for the Padang government since 2014. It was done because we consider the negative impact of cigarette advertising on the younger generation to be greater than than the positive impact,” Mahyeldi said as quoted by Tempo.
The mayor said he was encouraged by the support of a coalition of junior high school students from 30 schools throughout Padang who came to him to denounce the tobacco industry targeting advertisements towards new smokers such as their fellow students. He said their commitment strengthened his own towards maintaining the prohibition.
“As of December 31, 2017 no cigarette advertisements will be allowed in the city of Padang,” Mahyeldi said, noting that would include advertisements in shops and stalls as well as billboards.
Of course, such a commitment comes at a price. It is estimated that the Padang city government earned about Rp 3-4 billion in revenue from tobacco advertisements each year.
However, Mahyeldi said he was not worried about that because there were plenty of other businesses such as hospitals, hotels, gadget companies and restaurants that could fill in the advertising revenue gap.
Former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was one of the first Indonesian officials to ban cigarette advertisements from his region and most of the country’s tobacco advertising regulations are localized rather than national. Anti-smoking activits and the Ministry of Health are worried that a new tobacco bill currently being considered in Parliament could roll back tobacco advertising regulations even more.