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Indonesia pushes for graphic health warnings on cigarette packs

Indonesia's tobacco manufacturers on Tuesday began printing graphic health warnings on packets, as the health ministry embarked on more serious measures to reduce the number of smokers in the country.

JAKARTA: An Indonesian law requiring manufacturers to display pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs came into force on Tuesday, but anti-smoking campaigners said the rule was widely ignored.

The government had given the tobacco industry 18 months to comply with the 2012 regulation on tobacco control, which demands pictures or graphics on packs to warn about the hazards of smoking in addition to written warnings.

A government survey last year showed that 36 percent of the population aged above 15 smoke, with average consumption of 12 cigarettes a day.

"The aim is to provide the community with honest and accurate information in the form of pictures so they can decide (whether or not to smoke)," Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi told reporters.

The government hopes to reduce the number of first-time smokers as health ministry data indicates that 18 per cent are just 10 and 14 years old when they first light up and start smoking.

To combat this, a government regulation issued in 2012 states that at least 40 per cent of cigarette packaging should be covered with graphic health warnings.

An anti-tobacco group however said compliance has been low so far.

The National Commission on Tobacco Control said only six out of more than 3,800 cigarette products have the graphic warnings displayed.

"The government should enforce the law, there should be no tolerance even for the richest businessmen who violated the law," commission member Hakim Sorimuda Pohan told AFP.

A written statement released by Philip Morris Indonesia, one of the largest cigarette producers in the country, says they are supportive of the health warnings.

However, the company says it doesn't agree with picture sizes that are excessive as they still need space to feature their logos.

Dr Lily Sulistyowati, Director of Centre for Health Promotion at the Indonesian Health Ministry, said: "In other countries the regulations on cigarette packaging also require pictorial health warnings. The local cigarette industry must comply with the rules if they want to export their products."

The health minister has warned that all cigarette packaging without the health warnings would be taken off store shelves.

So far, 208 cigarette brands were notified and have reported they will comply with the new regulations. 

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