Indonesia officials are placing prohibitive regulations on the sales of vaping technology and products, even though this beautiful Asian nation has one of the highest rates of smoking in the entire world. Approximately 63% of adult Indonesian men and about 5% of the adult women smoke combustible tobacco products. That’s about 34% of the total population.
Meanwhile, about 90% of smokers nationwide prefer to smoke something called a Kretek which is usually made with a combination of combustible tobacco and cloves. Kreteks remain largely unregulated by the Indonesian government, too, which means that Indonesian smokers not only need to worry about ingesting the deadly tar and carcinogens of the burning tobacco, they should also be concerned with the who-knows-what-else found in the burning cloves.
If ever there was a nation in dire need of a smoking cessation method that greatly reduces the risks of smoking-related death and illness, Indonesia is that nation.
Indonesia has one of the world’s highest smoking rates, but rejects vaping
Indonesia is no small country. In fact, it’s the fourth, most-populous nation on earth. But because one of the primary “cash crops” in Indonesia in tobacco, government officials are facing many of the same political challenges as the United States. Tobacco is King in Indonesia, and the tobacco industry wields a lot of political power. As a result, Indonesia is the only nation in the Asia Pacific region that refuses to ratify the tobacco control guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).
When the Trade Minister of Indonesia, Enggartiasto Lukita, was asked by a local reporter about the new vaping restrictions, he suggested that vaping is just a silly fad. According to his statement published in a Kompas newspaper, if an Indonesian wants to inhale something, they should “just become regular smokers.”
Big Tobacco has so much political influence in Indonesia that it is not uncommon to find young children smoking in its city streets. According to the Tobacco Control Unit of the Indonesian Public Health Association, more than five million Indonesian children are reported to be smokers. A spokesperson for the organization, Dr. Widyastuti Soerojo, believes that the lack of urgency to implement or enforce federal smoking regulations is creating a national emergency.
“The tobacco industry here is very strong. Unlike in most other countries now, they're still perceived simply as a normal business and treated that way,” she said. “We lack many control measures that are needed, and those rules we do have, like on advertising to children, often go unenforced.”
Indonesia is very different than America. In Indonesia, alcoholic beverages are very heavily taxed, and it is illegal for local convenience stores to even sell them. There is also a significant drug problem, where even a minor infraction or nonviolent drug charge can result in the accused standing in front of a firing squad – literally.
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Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country, as well. So, their religious beliefs also vary greatly from those of the Western world.
The new vaping regulations will go into effect in a few months. Vendors will be required to apply and be approved for a combination of special licenses that will be very costly and time-consuming to obtain. A spokesman for the Indonesia's Personal Vaporizer Association suggests that acquiring the licenses may even take years.
Perhaps even more alarming, at the time of this writing the advocacy group’s website is no longer operational. Hopefully, this is merely a temporary coincidence and not a symptom of the newly evolving, anti-vaping Indonesian government.
Vaping may not be dead in Indonesia, but it’s future certainly looks bleak.
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