Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government must strengthen its efforts to protect the people from the dangers of cigarettes in order to prevent them from being addicted to nicotine.

People start smoking due to varying reasons, and once they get into the habit, it can be difficult to stop, as smoking is both physically and mentally addictive.

A person trying to forego the habit should know that quitting smoking can be as difficult as giving up other types of drugs.

Rarely does one hear of smokers who successfully stopped smoking on their own. On the other hand, a good treatment plan that addresses the physical and psychological aspects of addiction can go a long way in helping a smoker give up the habit for good.

Hence, protecting the people from the dangers of cigarettes should continue to be strengthened without any intervention from the interests of the tobacco industry.

In fact, Jakarta Citizen Forum (FAKTA) Chairman, Azas Tigor Nainggolan, stated that the Indonesian government`s efforts to protect people from the dangers of cigarettes are still not strong, because of the intervention by the interests of the tobacco industry.

"With more vigorous campaigning by tobacco control group, the tobacco industry will also become more intense, especially since it has a lot of money," Nainggolan remarked in a discussion in Jakarta on Wednesday.

He noted that with resources owned, the tobacco industry can do anything, including "buying" policies and rules. Therefore, it is not surprising that policies and regulations on tobacco control in Indonesia are still very weak.

The FAKTA chairman cited Government Regulation No. 109/2012 concerning Security of Materials Containing Addictive Substance in the form of Tobacco Products for Health, and Regulation of Jakarta Governor No.88/2010 on Smoking Area, which is still often violated.

"The rules already exist, but the implementation and rules derivative are still not strong," he noted.

He cited an example of a previous survey conducted by FACTA some time before the development of non-smoking areas in government offices. Of the 150 government offices surveyed, it turned out that 90 percent violated the regulation at non-smoking areas.

In the meantime, a psychiatrist at the Soeharto Heerdjan Mental Hospital in Jakarta, Dr Adhi Wibowo Nurhidayat, has stated that nicotine addiction is highly dangerous and is ranked third among narcotics, psychotropics, and addictive substances, after heroin and cocaine addiction.

During a discussion forum in Jakarta on Wednesday, Nurhidayat remarked that addiction to nicotine, the substance contained in cigarettes, ranks after heroin and cocaine, but this is yet to be widely known to the public, and hence, it is not considered harmful.

Narcotics, psychotropics, and addictive substances are classified into two large groups, namely those prohibited for general use and those still legally allowed for consumption, such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Psychiatrists who have dealt with several cases related to addictive substances are of the opinion that low doses of nicotine offer a calming effect.

"It is the effect of addictive substances. They then eventually become addictive due to that calm feeling," he pointed out.

Nurhidayat explained that people smoking cigarettes are often aware of its negative effects, with its calming effect often becoming their excuse to continue the habit. Smokers often argue that they need to smoke in order to perform well at work.

The results of studies conducted by various parties indicated that active smokers would be more likely to stop smoking if the cigarette prices increase by at least twofold of the normal prices.

Indonesian Minister for Woman Empowerment and Child Protection Yohana Yambise had expressed concern over the increase in the number of child smokers in the country.

A total of 54 percent of Indonesian children are now smokers. Thus, the minister has vowed to wean away children and women from smoking, as it could cause lung cancer, miscarriage, cervical cancer, and heart problems.

The minister urged for a special rule to be put in place to save people, especially women and children, from the harmful habit of cigarette smoking.

Indonesia has set in place Presidential Regulation Number 109 of 2012 that bans children from smoking, but shops continue to sell cigarettes to them.

Yambise appealed to issue a regulation necessitating cigarette buyers to present their IDs to prove they are at least 18 years of age or above.

"The regulation must be in the form of a bylaw. Sanctions must be imposed against those selling cigarettes to children," she remarked.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged governments around the world to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products to save lives and generate funds for better health services.

According to the WHO, not many governments make full use of the tobacco taxes to dissuade people from smoking or help them to cut down and quit. It recommends that at least 75 percent of the price of a pack of cigarettes should be tax.

The WHO has found that one person dies from tobacco-related disease every six seconds or so, equivalent to some six million people a year.

The number is forecast to rise to more than eight million people a year by 2030 unless strong measures are taken to control what it calls a "tobacco epidemic."

There are a billion smokers worldwide, but many countries have extremely low tobacco tax rates, and some have no special tobacco taxes at all, the WHO revealed.

Tobacco is one of the four main risk factors behind non-communicable diseases, mostly cancers, cardiovascular and lung diseases, and diabetes.

Reporter: Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Heru Purwanto
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