Four Indonesian NGOs filed a lawsuit against the president and parliament on Thursday for not signing a global tobacco treaty, saying the high level of tobacco use was forcing millions into poverty.
The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) along with three other NGOs slammed the government for not taking stronger measures to increase cigarette prices while prices of basic needs such as food have risen after fuel prices were hiked nearly 30 percent in May.
Cigarettes in Indonesia, the world's fifth largest cigarette market, are among the cheapest in the world with a pack costing around $1.
Although smoking has taken a toll on the health of Indonesians and pushed millions further into poverty, Indonesia is reluctant to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aimed at cutting cigarette consumption because of concerns about the developing country's economy.
The World Health Organization's FCTC aims to reduce tobacco consumption, including through a ban on advertising and promotion.
China, which is the world's largest cigarette producer, is among the 168 signatories to the treaty.
Indonesia's $8-billion tobacco industry is big business which provides jobs for 7 million people and contributes about 10 percent to the government's coffers.
"We demand the Indonesian president ratify FCTC because it can protect people from the bad impact of tobacco," Tulus Abadi, an anti-tobacco activist at YLKI, told reporters after the case was filed against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a Jakarta court.
"The majority of smokers are poor people who allocate more money for cigarettes than for education and food."
Most Indonesians smoke traditional clove cigarettes which were invented in the late 19th century to ward off illnesses.
Called "kretek" for the crackling sound they make when they burn, the cigarettes usually contain added flavours such as chocolate and dried fruits. Some taste sweet, others spicy, but they are all distinctly Indonesian.
Some big cities in Indonesia, including Jakarta, have banned smoking in public areas, but these local regulations are still not implemented, Tubagus Haryo Karbyanto, an activist of the Jakarta citizens forum, told reporters.
Last Mod: 19 Haziran 2008, 16:14