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After a battle almost five years long, Indonesia's law on tobacco pack health warnings has finally been implemented – pictorial health warnings must now feature across 40 per cent of the front and back of all tobacco packaging.

However, implementation will be challenging. The law called for any product not displaying the proper warning to be removed from sale on 24 June, but of Indonesia's 3,300 tobacco brands, only 409 brands had registered their new packaging with the National Agency of Drug and Food Control as required by that date.

The tobacco industry has been fighting enforcement of the law since it was first introduced in 2009. The industry claimed that health warnings need only be given in text and cover just 30 per cent of the package surface. But evidence shows that effective health warnings must be graphic and cover at least 40 per cent of surface area.

'Pictorial health warnings are proven to be a powerful disincentive to smokers, that's why the tobacco industry fought so hard to keep these images off packaging here,' said Tara Singh Bam, The Union's tobacco control technical advisor to Indonesia. 'These pictures reveal the true impact of tobacco use.'

The World Health Organization estimates that 200,000 Indonesians die each year from tobacco-related disease. And the most recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted in Indonesia (2011) reveals that 67 per cent of its adult males smoke – the world's highest rate.

'Introducing pictorial health warnings is a major step forward, and it is thanks to the support of civil society and regional administrations that this has been achieved,' said Bam. 'The Ministry of Health has also demonstrated a firm commitment to advancing tobacco control. But because of strong tobacco industry interference and delay tactics, Indonesia remains the only member of the G20 and the Organization of Islamic Countries not to have signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.'

A new tobacco control roadmap, endorsed by the Ministry of Health, has been drawn up by two major civil society organisations – the Indonesian Tobacco Control Network and Muhammadiyah, with technical support from The Union. Its goal is to increase the pictorial warning size on tobacco packs to 75 per cent between 2015 and 2019, and introduce plain packaging (as pioneered in Australia) by 2020. This plan is supported by mayors and regents of more than 90 cities and districts across Indonesia who have been pushing for more robust tobacco control measures to protect the health of their citizens.


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