Anti-smoking summit urges Indonesian action

Sydney: An Asia Pacific summit of anti-smoking campaigners on Saturday urged Indonesia to regulate its tobacco industry and called for musicians to boycott events sponsored by cigarette companies.

The Asia Pacific Association for the Control of Tobacco (APACT) said Indonesia was creating a "public health disaster" by rejecting the global tobacco treaty and allowing cigarette promotion to thrive.

APACT also condemned international bands including Australia`s Wolfmother and The Vines for playing a major music festival this weekend in Jakarta which is sponsored by Gudang Garam, Indonesia`s largest tobacco company.

"Tobacco advertising and promotional activities in Indonesia are unmatched anywhere else in Asia," APACT said in a resolution passed on Saturday.

"Rock groups from western countries such as USA, UK and Australia, who would not allow tobacco sponsorship of their concerts in their own countries or anywhere else in the world, are performing in Indonesia under tobacco brand names," it added.

"These bands have ignored international protests about their double standards."

The Sydney summit of 700 delegates from 41 countries made an "urgent" appeal that Jakarta sign on to the World Health Organisation`s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

It called for "all international artists and athletes performing in Indonesia (to) reject tobacco sponsorship of their concerts and events" and refuse to participate in events that promoted smoking.

APACT also asked Wolfmother and The Vines to make a public statement "that they will no longer endorse tobacco sponsorship and do not encourage smoking (and) they condemn the distribution of free cigarettes at concerts."

Wolfmother has responded to the criticism by issuing a statement on its website saying it does not "support or condemn the sponsors" and will play the gig for the fans who have "parted with their very own cold hard cash".

Indonesia earns billions of dollars a year in tax revenues from tobacco companies, which employ millions of people across the country.

APACT said more than 200,000 people died every year from tobacco-related causes in Indonesia, with 60 percent of the country`s men estimated to be smokers and a "disturbing" trend of children taking up the habit.

Bureau Report