National Commission on Child Protection to sue ministry over cigarettes

Denpasar (ANTARA News) - The National Commission for Child Protection plans to file a lawsuit against the health ministry due to its regulation on cigarettes that provides no protection to children.

"We will submit the lawsuit to the Central Jakarta District Court. We are seeking the legal rights of the community. Of 20 complainants that we have contacted, we will take seven as representatives to file the lawsuit and two adults whose lungs have been damaged due to cigarette smoke," the commission chairman, Aris Merdeka Sirait, said here on Saturday.

He made the statement when speaking at a workshop entitled "Advocacy for the Implementation of No-Smoking Area Bylaw in Bali" for journalists, held in cooperation with the Independent Journalist Association Chapter and the Child Protection Institute of Bali chapters.

He said the government has an obligation to protect public health, but "it has so far never produced a regulation that controls smoking. We will sue the government, in this case the health ministry, as the one responsible for problems in the health field."

He said his organization has already collected records of children who had become victims of cigarette smoking.

He said his target was not to win, but to demand the government fulfill its responsibility in upholding children`s constitutional right to health, "including recovering the health conditions of children who have become victims and eradication of all cigarette ads."

He said he could not understand the different treatment for cigarettes and alcoholic drinks, adding both are addictive, but cigarettes are given more leniency, showing that the government has surrendered to cigarette companies.

"In international media, our country has been reported as having baby smokers when under-five year old children have been found smoking, though they do not live near a cigarette factory," he said.

He said in China, which has the world`s largest population of cigarette smokers, no baby smokers have been found.

Aris said, based on data from 2008 to 2012, 239,000 children under 10 years old in Indonesia have been documented as active smokers.

Even a child in South Sumatra, known by its initials as AS, was found to have started smoking when he was 11 months old. Shockingly, he smokes as many as 40 cigarettes a day and will become angry unless he is given cigarettes.

"He smoked until he was two years old. Luckily, after we helped him with therapy, he finally could stop smoking," he said.

Aris said, based on data from cigarette producers, there are 89 million smokers in the country.

"If each smoker has a child, there are 89 million children who have become passive smokers," he said.(*)