Anti-tobacco advocates in Indonesia plan to file a class action lawsuit this month using cases of child addicts in the hope of forcing tougher regulations on a society where one in three people smokes. The suit against tobacco companies and the Indonesian governmentargues that feeble regulation has left children dangerously exposed to the risks of smoking. Indonesia is something of a paradise for both smokers and tobacco companies, with the world’s fifth largest population of smokers.
It is a widely tolerated habit and one which even in this relatively poor archipelago most can afford to feed. The vast majority of Indonesian smokers puff cigarettes laced with cloves, called kretek, a word based on the crackling sound made by the burning, heavily scented spice. So pervasive is the habit that tobacco products are the number two item in household expenditure after rice, according to the statistics bureau. Health worker Husein blames advertising.
Billboards in the main street near any village feature cigarette advertisements and local entertainment events are often sponsored by tobacco firms. It is a scene replicated across Indonesia’s vast network of islands. The annualcost of smoking-related diseases is estimated as high as 11 trillion rupiah, said analyst, Abdillah Ahsan of the University of Indonesia’s Demography Institute.