FCTC and Tobacco Control Policies in Southeast Asia: the “Special” Case of Indonesia

Feature - Tobacco

Andika Putra, Research Intern at ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada

Tobacco is one of the greatest emerging health disasters in human history[1], it’s generally use among the poor and increasing among girls.[2] In 2014, almost 20% or about 121 million of the adult ASEAN population are the smokers and it is potentially increase every year. As it is known, the harms of smoking are global in scope and one of the main cause of non-communicable disease. Moreover, Indonesia is one of the state which has the highest number of smokers in the world. By referring to the data above, ASEAN states must act multilaterally to repel this global threat to public health.

Actually, in 2002, Southeast Asia Governments has agreed to eradicate the number of smoker through the 6th Health Ministers Meeting, ASEAN governments committed to a vision and a “Regional Action Plan on Healthy ASEAN Lifestyles”. Identifying tobacco control as one of the priority policy areas, the Action Plan calls upon member nations to implement a Program of Work on promoting healthy ASEAN lifestyles[3]. For tobacco control policies this includes developing and implementing a national action plan in each states, in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

Primarily, the WHO FCTC is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO and provides a new legal dimension for International health cooperation. It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. As an international treaty, the FCTC can be used as a standard to measure whether states are fulfilling their obligations derived from the right to health, as they exist under international human rights law, because it is regulating the control of tobacco consumption demand and controlling supply of cigarettes.

Furthermore, in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is the one and only state which did not ratify the FCTC, along with other states namely Andorra, Eriteria, Liechtenstein, Malawi, Monaco, Somalia, the Dominican Republic and South Sudan.[4]. This reluctance may be explained by a fear that implementing the treaty’s content would damage the tobacco industry, which is considered an important source of income and employment[5]. Whereas, the FCTC plays an essential role in connecting the ASEAN states member to act multilaterally to repel this global threat, because as a part of regional organization which agreed to implement a “Regional Action Plan on Healthy ASEAN Lifestyles”, Indonesia did not ratify the WHO-FCTC that become the main legal instrument as the guideline to reach the objectives of the regional action plan. Finally, one of the strategic measures for tobacco control in Southeast Asia is through the ratification of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by the Indonesia. It is not only to fulfill and protect the right to health of the citizen but also through this ratification Indonesia show their commitment to support tobacco control policies in the region.

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[1] WHO, WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, Geneva: WHO, 2008
[2] Institute of Medicine, Promoting Cardiovascular Health in the Developing World: A Critical Challenge to Achieve Global Health (Washington, D.C.: National Academic Press, 2010), p.73
[3] SEATCA ASEAN Tobacco Control Report, Jakarta: ASEAN, 2014
[4] http://www.who.int/fctc/signatories_parties/en/, accessed 7 am, May, 17th 2016
[5] Simon Barraclough and Martha Morrow,  The political economy of tobacco and poverty alleviation in Southeast Asia: contradictions in the role of the state, IUHPE – Global Health Promotion Supp (1) 2010, p.45