Indonesia’s Minister of Health rejects proposed tobacco bill as regressive for public health

Health Minister Professor Nila Moeloek opened the Indonesian Conference on Tobacco or Health (ICTOH) with a public rejection of a bill currently before parliament which would roll back interventions to reduce tobacco use across the country. 

During the inaugural address to the conference, the minister advocated for advances in evidence-based tobacco control policies rather than the proposals of the ‘tobacco bill’ which would weaken restrictions on smoking in public places, remove the requirement for tobacco packs to display graphic warnings of the health consequences of tobacco use and enable tobacco companies to advertise without any health warnings. 

Increased tobacco taxes; larger graphic health warnings on tobacco products and accession to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco  Control (WHO FCTC) were highlighted by Professor Moeloek as priorities for Indonesia, which has one of the largest populations of tobacco users globally – 67 percent of adult men smoke. The health minister’s position was supported by high-level officials at sessions throughout the ICTOH from: the Ministry of National Planning and Development, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture and the Executive Office of the President. 

The conference, which ran from 15 to 16 May, drew more than 300 attendees, including health professionals, policymakers, academics, media and civil society from several provinces. Through plenaries, symposia, and workshops, participants shared experiences, gathered new information and established strategic relationships for advancing tobacco control. 

Sessions were based on the WHO FCTC and its MPOWER strategy – six evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use. The Chair of the Indonesian Mayors' Alliance, Dr Hasto Wardoyo and several members of parliament participated in sessions, offering national-level insights on how political will at all levels of government is needed to advance tobacco control interventions and prevent industry interference in tobacco control policy. 

The conference declaration outlined urgent actions to be taken by the government and parliament to counter the country’s tobacco epidemic: increase tobacco taxation and simplify its structures; enlarge graphic health warning to cover 75 percent of the pack surface area; completely ban tobacco advertising and promotion; reject the tobacco bill; accede to the WHO FCTC.

The conference was organised by the Ministry of Health, Indonesia Public Health Association, Tobacco Control Support Centre, The Union and World Health Organization.


Indonesia’s Tobacco or Health Youth Forum

Young people from across the country united ahead of ICTOH for a one-day forum to reclaim music and sport from the tobacco industry, which frequently sponsors such events. Young athletes and a prominent rap artist met with over 150 participants on 14 May in Jakarta. It was organised by the Tobacco Control Support Centre and Indonesian Public Health Association, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and The Union. Jakarta’s newly elected vice governor, Mr Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno, encouraged attendees to be united and strategic in facing ‘the goliath’ of the tobacco industry. He also called for action to reduce the affordability of cigarettes to deter young people from starting to smoke.