Health experts around the world agree that smoking increases your risk of dying. Based on this, many countries have implemented policies and campaigns to reduce smoking uptake and encourage cessation. However, Indonesia is one of the few countries in which tobacco consumption, namely daily smoking rates, has not significantly decreased since 1990, bucking worldwide trends in tobacco consumption. Given the scientific consensus that smoking kills, and that at least 1 in 7 deaths in Indonesia is attributable to smoking (WHO 2018), why is it so difficult to implement tobacco control regulations?
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This discussion will address some of the challenges to effective tobacco control using a social sciences lens that go beyond the public health messaging to highlight economic, political and sociological aspects of cigarettes in Indonesia. Looking at the current state of regulation and policy it appears that saving lives has not traditionally been, and nor is it now, the Indonesian government’s priority. However, in better understanding the influences at play, we can also understand where pressure points lie—what discourses need to be challenged and what advocacy can be done—in order to install potentially live-saving regulations.