Indonesians smoking more than ever before..

September 7, 2008 - The World Health Organization says more than 70 million adults regularly smoke in Indonesia, a six-fold increase over the past 40 years. An estimated 400,000 people will die this year from smoking-related diseases. But Finance Minister Mulyani Indrawati says the economy and job creation are the government's number-one priority. And Indonesia's tobacco industry, through farming, production and sales provides an economic lifeline for millions of people.

The government says it wants to reduce smoking, particularly among young people. But just how this will be achieved is unclear. Smoking in most public places is banned in the capital, Jakarta, but the three-year-old law is rarely enforced. Cigarette companies regularly hold promotions in parks, concerts and sports venues. Lots of advertising of the tobacco everywhere. You can see here on the roads, even in front of schools. How come? If they want to reduce it they have to ban those kinds of advertisement[s] near the school, on television during the kind of early times," said Thabrany. "And they [tobacco companies] support also sport events, where the young people are there."

Although prices for food, transportation and energy have risen, cigarette prices have not. The global average for tobacco taxes is 70 percent of the sales price. In Indonesia the average is 37 percent. But some, including the popular kretek or clove cigarette, are taxed at 21 percent.

Dr. Sarah Barber, an economist, has just completed a study of Indonesia's tobacco economy. She says raising taxes would reduce smoking rates and help the economy.

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Reference: Indonesia Tobacco Sales Grow, Raising Health FearsVoice of America, 9/3/2008 and Smoker’s Paradise, Asia Sentinel, 1/22/2007.