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Sabita Karapan, a Union technical assistant for tobacco control in Indonesia, gives an update below on current projects and activities taking place in Indonesia with regards to reducing tobacco usage, current challenges faced and ultimate goals. Sabita’s role is to coordinate all these activities and personnel from governmental, civil communities and Union staff, to achieve the aim of reducing the burden of tobacco in low- and middle-income countries.

What kinds of tobacco control projects are you working on at the moment?

Currently there are various important projects, both at national and sub-national level in Indonesia, each of which have different priority interventions.

At present there is a bid to improve national and local regulations to develop a comprehensive ban of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. We are working with key stakeholders including The Indonesian Mayor and Regent Alliance to expand sub-national smokefree laws as well as the Ministry of Finance to raise taxes and prices of tobacco products.

We are also working on the expansion of smokefree laws with a ban on tobacco advertising and promotion and aim to achieve at least 80 percent compliance with smokefree laws in Jakarta, Bali, Bogor, Makassar and Kulon Progo, Depok and Yogyakarta city by 2020.

What local partners are you working with?

We work with a range of governmental and non-governmental partners. Our governmental partners include the Ministry of Health (MOH), The Indonesian Mayor and Regent Alliance as well as universities across Indonesia such as Udayana, Hasanuddin and Airlangga University.

Our non-governmental partners include the Indonesian Public Health Association, Muhammadiyah, Indonesian Institute for Social Development, Smokefree Jakarta and No Tobacco Community.

We work closely with each of our partners, offering a host of services and support such as legal and technical assistance to policy development, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, advocacy, networking and more.

What kinds of activity are you undertaking at the moment?

There are far too many activities to list, but some highlights include; working with sub-national governments across Indonesia to help draft, implement and enforce smokefree regulations, and introduce new laws; gaining political will for higher taxation of tobacco products through network of grantees and government officials. In 2018, the Ministry of Health Indonesia, proposed a provision for tobacco products to have pictorial health warnings covering 90 percent of tobacco packaging, by amending Government Regulation No.109/2012. The proposal is currently under deliberation by the inter-ministerial committee and is one of the key priorities of The Union grant programme with the MOH.

We are also gaining support from current and ex-tobacco farmers on public health including tobacco control, engaging with mayors and governors to gain political will and expanding the tobacco control network to Human Rights based organisations.

The Union worked with its grantees to form an alliance in September 2018 called the “Indonesian Multi-cultural Farmer’s Forum”. The forum includes 53 farmers from tobacco growing provinces. It was established with key objectives of denormalising tobacco, countering tobacco industry’s falsehoods, and connecting current tobacco farmers with ex-tobacco farmers to share successful stories of switching to other crops. The forum plans to expand, to meet every six months, and to communicate with the government for their support on shifting to alternative crops. The Alliance was formed in response to a campaign launched by tobacco industry front groups calling to stop the 12th Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health (AP-CAT) and block WHO FCTC.

What is the biggest challenge in your country/area?

The tobacco industry presence is strong in Indonesia and this is blocking and reducing the quality of public health regulations. Also, Indonesia has not signed the WHO FCTC and this is also a big challenge for the country.

What is your overall objective?

To reduce the prevalence of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke across Indonesia.

What audiences are most important in your work?

Tobacco control is a multi-sectoral issue, all different types of audiences are important including but not limited to the public, national and sub-national government, health sector, financial sector, law makers, media, youth, religious groups, civil societies and agriculture sector universities. They all play a vital role and must be given equal attention.

What are the key project milestones?

We have a range of exciting and important milestones coming up, for example, later this year we will be launching a paper investigating tobacco use and its effects on healthcare costs and healthcare capacity. Findings show that tobacco use increases these associated costs and puts strain on healthcare capacity. However, this can be controlled by increasing taxation on tobacco products and using this revenue to finance universal health coverage.

What are your achievements?

We have been working with The Indonesian Mayor and Regent Alliance to expand and strengthen smokefree laws in cities and districts of Indonesia. In 2018, The Alliance reached out to 270 cities and districts and built policy awareness and knowledge of local leaders of these cities and districts on tobacco control. In total 187 cities and districts have adopted a 100 percent local smokefree laws and regulations protecting 116 million of the Indonesian population. In 2017, only 102 cities and districts were documented as adopting these laws, so we have exceeded our target of reaching at least 10 cities by March 2019 and 30 cities by June 2020.

The Union helped assist in the banning of outdoor tobacco advertising in 23 cities and districts, including Jakarta Province, in 2018. The Union and its grantees provided technical assistance in policy formation, training, monitoring and capacity building to these cities and districts. Another major driver of this success was the involvement of The Indonesian Mayors and Regents Alliance with the technical support of The Union.

In 2018, five cities (Bogor, Depok, Kulon Progo, Klungkung and Bekasi) banned the display of tobacco products at the point of sale (POS). The Union worked with its grantees and Indonesian Mayor and Regent Alliance to frame ban display of tobacco products under an umbrella of smokefree policy at the sub-national level.


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The Tobacco Control Department is based at The Union Europe Office, Edinburgh, registered charity no. SC039880
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