April 15, 2011 - An Indonesian woman exhales cigarette smoke into the mouth of a gaunt, naked patient at a Jakarta clinic, where tobacco is openly touted as a cancer cure.
The Western patient is suffering from emphysema, a condition she developed from decades of smoking. Along with cancer and autism, it's just one of the ailments the Indonesia's Griya Balur Clinic touts smoking as cure for cancer, autism and emphysema
"I missed this," says the woman, a regular customer, with an American accent, as Phil Collins?s "I Can Feel It" blares in the background.
Griya Balur would be shut down in many parts of the world, but not in Indonesia, one of the developing-country new frontiers for big tobacco as it seeks to replace its dwindlin
Griya Balur founder Dr Gretha Zahar said she had treated 60,000 people with tobacco smoke over the past decade. With a PhD in nanochemistry from Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, Zahar believes that by manipulating the mercury in tobacco smoking can cure all diseases including cancer, and even reverse the ageing process.
"Mercury is the cause of all illnesses. In my cigarettes - we call them Divine Cigarettes - there are scavengers that extract the mercury from the body," she said.
ndonesia's biggest cigarette manufacturer, PT HM Sampoerna, is an affiliate of Philip Morris International. Briti
sh American Tobacco bought Indonesia's fourth largest cigarette maker, PT Bentoel, for $494 million in 2009.
The government reaps about seven billion dollars a year in excise taxes from the industry, which employs scores of thousands of people around Temanggung in Central Java.
Cigarettes cost about one dollar for a pack of 20, yet they are often the second biggest item of household expenditure after food for the Southeast Asian country's poorest families.
According to the World Health Organisation, smoking rates have risen six-fold in Indonesia over the last 40 years.
Smoking kills at least 400,000 people every year and another 25,000 die from passive smoking.
References: In Indonesia, tobacco smoke promoted as cancer cure, by Agence France-Presse,The Raw Story, 4/12/2011; Indonesia's Griya Balur Clinic touts smoking as cure for cancer, autism and emphysema