Indonesia - Smoking hits poor families the hardest, making the poor even poorer..

June 8, 2009 - Former health minister Farid Anfasa Moeloek, who now heads the National Commission on Tobacco Control: More money is spent on cigarettes than on rice in low-income families that include a smoker, a former health minister said on Tuesday. “A smoker in the family can mean that up to 17 days of the family income is spent on cigarettes,” said during a health discussion on smoking. “This means that only 13 days of their income is left for food and other household necessities. This increases the likelihood of children suffering learning difficulties and other problems due to malnutrition.”

Farid: “Given that 70 percent of the country’s smokers come from low-income families, Indonesia faces losing a generation of children, adding that the data came from research conducted in 2007 by the University of Indonesia’s Demographic Institute.

Farid said: It important that the government finalize the law on tobacco control (WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)) which has been languishing in the House of Representatives since 2004. He said that by adopting the law, Indonesia could better protect its citizens, especially the poor and the young. The law addresses the need for smoke-free zones, a ban on selling cigarettes to under-aged children and outlawing cigarette advertising, as well as raising taxes on cigarettes. “If we can adopt this law, income from higher cigarette taxes can be allocated to help people suffering from tobacco-related ailments.”

Indonesia currently charges a 37 percent tax on tobacco and earns about Rp 42 trillion ($3.5 billion) annually from the tax.

Indonesia remains one of only four countries yet to ratify the 2004 World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which provides for tobacco control measures related to the production, sale, distribution, advertisement and taxation of tobacco. “I don’t know why we haven’t ratified this convention,” Farid said, adding that the mortality rate for tobacco-related ailments in Indonesia stood at 22 percent, including 32,400 infant deaths in 2006 linked to smoking, according to Unicef data.

Frid added: “Protecting our young generation is important as they have become the main targets of cigarette advertising.”

According to a global youth tobacco survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2006, 14.4 percent of Indonesian students between the ages of 13 and 15 were smokers, while separate research in 2007 found that 41.5 percent of student smokers said they were influenced by cigarette ads.

Research by the National Commission on Child Protection showed cigarette companies sponsored 1,350 youth-oriented events in the first 10 months of 2007. A 2007 UN report that tracks countries’ progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals said that nationally, the number of malnourished children under the age of 5 remained relatively high despite reductions in the last two decades. “Smoking also increases the risk of miscarriage, as well as of delivering a low-weight or premature baby,” Farid said.

Reference: Smoking Hits Poor Families Hardest by Nurfika Osman

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