Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Indonesia High-level Inter-Ministerial Meeting on the WHO FCTC

High-level inter-ministerial meeting on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), Jakarta, Indonesia, 1 April 2014
Luay Hakim

Place: Jakarta, Indonesia
Date: 1 April 2014

The Government of Indonesia convened a high-level inter-ministerial meeting on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 1 April 2014. The meeting was called by Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry of People's Welfare, to discuss about Indonesia's accession to the WHO FCTC.

Chaired by the Minister of Health, Dr Nafsiah Mboi, Sp.A, MPH, the meeting was attended by representatives of ministries. Among the officials those of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Labour and Transmigration, Ministry of Child and Women's Protection, Ministry of Social Welfare, and Ministry of Youth and Sports were present.

The tobacco control treaty has been ratified by 178 Parties, representing 90% of global population. By providing concrete measures to reduce tobacco use the WHO FCTC protects populations from disability, disease and premature death caused by tobacco. Also, the WHO FCTC provides a frame of work and collaboration among Parties to prevent any interference of tobacco industry in the process of developing and implementing tobacco control policy.

Through a video message Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General asked the Ministers in the Indonesian government to support Indonesia’s accession to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control “ Countries implementing the WHO FCTC see almost immediate double-digit drops in the number of heart attacks, strokes, respiratory disorders and tobacco-related cancers. Also, none of the adverse economic effects like lost revenues or jobs predicted in their (tobacco industry) arguments has actually been documented in any of the large number of countries that parties to the WHO FCTC," said Dr Chan.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO Regional Director for South East Asia Region shared messages to the attending high officials. "The WHO FCTC was developed to protect health, not restrict trade. Countries implementing it need not see a change in their trade portfolio." This international health treaty is broadly compatible with other international obligations, including those related to trade. Countries with long history of tobacco culture like Brazil, India, and Turkey have ratified the WHO FCTC and seen the decrease of prevalence in related diseases.

Dr Douglas Bettcher, WHO Director of Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases from Geneva and Professor Prakit Vathesatogkit from Thailand, one of the countries that has a ratified the Convention and saw its benefits, attended the meeting and provided information, data, facts related to the aspects of implementing the WHO FCTC and responded to the officials' questions.

Dr Bettcher and Professor Prakit addressed some of the concerns in the room related to the tobacco industry in the country and showed how ratifying the WHO FCTC benefits country's public health without an immediate dramatic impact on the tobacco industry. Eight of the ten largest producers of tobacco in the world are Parties to the WHO FCTC. The tobacco companies have a history of hyper-inflating the numbers of their employees and presenting overwhelming numbers suggesting a catastrophic scenario of job losses if tobacco control measures are taken. However, neither immediate impact on tobacco agriculture and jobs, nor a negative impact on the overall economy have been reported by any of these countries.

In the press conference , following the meeting, the Honourable Minister of Health read out from the letter directly sent by the Director-General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr Anthony Lake, to Honourable President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono , appreciating his leadership in leading Post 2015 MDGs policies. One of them is to decrease the number of cases of noncommunicable diseases, which is largely caused by tobacco. One of the alternatives to increase the cases of noncommunicable diseases is to access WHO FCTC. The letter also mentioned supports to Indonesia in encountering the strong influence of tobacco industry. “Don’t be surprised, because that is what the tobacco industry has done in 177 countries that have ratified WHO FCTC”.