News / Asia

Indonesian Court Hears Pro-Tobacco Testimony

Tobacco on display at a recent international tobacco exhibition in Jakarta
Tobacco on display at a recent international tobacco exhibition in Jakarta
Angela Dewan

Indonesia has banned smoking in public places and is trying to curb tobacco advertising. Yet the idea that tobacco is an addictive substance is being challenged in its Constitutional Court. Over the past two months the court has heard from officials and experts who say tobacco is not harmful, does not cause lung cancer, and can even be beneficial to health.

A health law passed in 2009 that recognizes tobacco as an addictive substance has come under scrutiny in Indonesia, where the tobacco industry has evaded such labeling in the past.

Experts told the Constitutional Court this week that a clause defining tobacco as addictive discriminates against tobacco farmers, while others earlier testified that tobacco is not addictive.

Saldi Isra, a professor of constitutional law at Andalas University in West Sumatra, told the court the clause is unconstitutional.

Isra testifies that the constitution says everyone has the right to a livelihood. And discrimination of a group of people, in this case, tobacco farmers, is against the constitution.

Bambang Sukarno, a lawmaker from a tobacco-growing region in central Java, asked for the judicial review of the law.

If the court upholds the clause, tobacco companies could face a total ban on advertising. Already alcohol is recognized as addictive and advertising for liquor has been illegal here for 10 years.

Sukarno and his supporters say that tobacco is not technically addictive but that it contains an addictive substance, namely nicotine. Witnesses who support him have testified that tobacco can be manipulated to be less addictive and even beneficial to health.

Dr. Sutiman Bambang Sumitro, a molecular biology professor at the University of Brawijaya in East Java, told the court last month that through nanochemistry, tobacco could be manipulated and used to treat illnesses, including cancer.

He says any toxin can be modified to benefit health. It also is possible to eliminate free radicals to reduce health risks to smokers and passive smokers.

Aris Widodo, a professor of pharmacology at the same university, told the court that he had never heard of anyone dying from smoking. He said smoking could eliminate anxiety, sharpen concentration and calm the nerves.  

Widodo says that stress is a major factor in illnesses that often are blamed on tobacco. But stress can easily be overcome by smoking cigarettes, rather than using other expensive drugs.

This controversy over the addictiveness of tobacco began when the clause in question mysteriously was eliminated from the final draft of the health bill in 2009, raising suspicions that the government was bowing to the tobacco industry.

The incident echoes a controversy in 1992, when lawmakers omitted the same clause after lobbying by tobacco companies.   

The Health Ministry maintains the missing clause in 2009 was merely an oversight.

Dr. Hakim Sorimuda Pohan, a Democratic Party member who helped draft the law, thinks the tobacco lobby is again behind the push to have the clause omitted. He also says the addictiveness of tobacco is undeniable.

“Tobacco as addictive is basic science, in medical science," Pohan said. "No one says it’s not addictive. If anyone says that, they’re really lying. Basic science rejects it.”

Political maneuvering and court battles over tobacco are not unique to Indonesia. For instance, in 1994, seven tobacco company executives testified in the U.S. Congress they did not believe tobacco was an addictive substance.

But thousands of international studies show tobacco is addictive and harmful to health.

A number of studies, such as one by the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, have shown that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances. Some studies say it is more addictive than heroin, cocaine and alcohol.

The World Health Organization says tobacco kills about half its users, or more than five million people annually. The WHO says it is linked to number of cancers, such as lung, bladder, breast and colon cancer, as well as heart disease and stroke.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid