Government must discuss draft law on tobacco: Ministry

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government should deliberate the bill on tobacco proposed under the initiative of the House of Representatives, a senior official of the Ministry of Industry stated.

"The draft law is now still in the deliberation process among ministries and government institutions. The bill has pros and cons, but the government should continue to conduct deliberations on it," Willem Petru Riwu, the director for beverage industry, tobacco products, and danger of preservatives affairs of the Ministry of Industry, remarked here on Monday.

However, there is an exception if President Joko Widodo believes that the deliberation on the bill should be delayed for certain reasons. Until now, the president has yet to take any stand on the tobacco draft law.

"The president is still awaiting the response of ministries and state institutions. Actually, the Ministry of Industry is now prepared to deliberate the draft law with ministries and state institutions," he noted.

Riwu said the discussions on the draft law on tobacco among ministries and state institutions come under the coordination of the health and industry ministries. He admitted to the presence of pros and cons in the deliberations on cigarette products.

Some argue that cigarette products generate high excise taxes and state revenue, while others believe that the sales of cigarettes should be curbed as it concerns public health, and some have opined that the fate of workers and farmers depends on it.

With regard to criticism by tobacco control activists who view the tobacco bill as favoring the industry and ignoring the health of the younger generation and the people, Riwu stated that such a critical interpretation can just emerge from the public.

"The Ministry of Industry is the one that is developing the industry. The tobacco industry involves parties, such as the industry. Hence, the Ministry of Industry cannot abdicate responsibility. It has no odd interest in it," he added.(*)