Loud and clear: Youth call for a tobacco-free future

Young people take center stage to advocate for smoke-free areas and a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship

Ardila Syakriah, Health Knowledge Management and Communications Officer
Members of North Sumatra Youth Tobacco Control Movement (NS-YTC) called for the implementation of smoke-free areas in Medan in 2021.
NS-YTC/2021
12 July 2022

Every day, young people in Indonesia are exposed to tobacco in their homes, schools and communities. Being surrounded by tobacco advertising and widely scattered cigarette butts is just one part of the problem. Through their own habits, young people’s lives are also going up in smoke.

About one in ten of the country’s 10–18-year-olds are current smokers, which is one of the highest smoking rates among adolescents globally, and the number has continued to grow. Despite a ban on purchasing tobacco for those below 18 years old, over 40 per cent of Indonesian students aged 13-15 years old have consumed tobacco products, according to the 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey.

Extensive tobacco use puts the future of children across Indonesia at grave risk. Tobacco is the second biggest risk factor for premature deaths and disability in Indonesia. There are 600,000 premature deaths annually due to exposure to cigarette smoke, 28 per cent of which are children. Non-communicable diseases attributed to smoking have also strained the country’s public health financing.

To observe World No Tobacco Day, which falls annually on 31 May, over 800 young people – ranging from junior high school and university students to peer educators – came together to share their concerns about these worrying trends at the 2022 virtual Youth Pioneer Jamboree in June.

The Indonesian Youth Council of Tobacco Control (IYCTC) and UNICEF, with support from the Ministry of Health, staged the jamboree under the theme, “Youth and a Healthy Environment without Smoking”.

The event enabled young adult voices to be heard directly by representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection.

Participant of 2022 Youth Pioneer Jamboree joined online.
UNICEF/2022
Participant of 2022 Youth Pioneer Jamboree joined online.
Hundreds of young people participate in the UNICEF-supported 2022 Youth Pioneer Jamboree on 9-10 June 2022, during which they directly engaged with ministerial representatives.
UNICEF/2022
Hundreds of young people participate in the UNICEF-supported 2022 Youth Pioneer Jamboree on 9-10 June 2022, during which they directly engaged with ministerial representatives.

“Young people have to make the brave choice to cut the chains of tobacco, rather than extending them,” declared Zulqadri, a 21-year-old tobacco control activist from Medan, North Sumatra, who was among the speakers at the jamboree.

More young people like Zulqadri are refusing to sit idly by as they watch a growing number of their friends become smokers and as tobacco pollutants contaminate their space. Young adult groups, with support from UNICEF and IYCTC, have been advocating for smoke-free areas across the nation and a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS).

Indonesia’s mandate for every region to implement smoke-free areas is among the country’s initiatives to protect young people from the dangers of tobacco, as it expects to see the productive age population dominate the country in a few years. As of 2021, 326 of the country’s 514 districts have issued a regulation on such areas. The smoke-free areas ban not only smoking, but also tobacco production, sales and TAPS.

Young people are supportive of these efforts. A U-report survey conducted by IYCTC and UNICEF in March 2022, which engaged over 4,800 people aged 13-24 years old across the country, found that most of them supported the government’s role in implementing smoke-free areas and banning tobacco ads.

About half of them reported to have found people smoking in public places, with 80 per cent of respondents feeling disturbed by them. A majority of them said they were disturbed by tobacco ads on social media, believing that tobacco ads have a high chance of influencing others to smoke.

Ministerial representatives attending the jamboree pledged to restrict online tobacco ads, to require bigger pictorial health warnings on tobacco packaging through an ongoing revision of Government Regulation No. 109/2012 on tobacco control, and to cease tobacco sponsorship of sports events.

Dozens of youth representatives from across the country participate in a UNICEF-supported workshop on tobacco control in Jakarta in 2021.
IYCTC/2022
Dozens of youth representatives from across the country participate in a UNICEF-supported workshop on tobacco control in Jakarta in 2021.

These commitments were welcomed by UNICEF and IYCTC. “Strengthening regulations to protect children and young people is non-negotiable, including for the total ban of advertising, promotion and sponsorship,” said IYCTC project officer Sarah Muthiah Widad.

“This event is a real testament to adolescents [and young people]. When they are given the opportunity to contribute to social change, they can build a better future for themselves and prosperity for the entire community,” said UNICEF Indonesia Representative a.i. Robert Gass. “Therefore, we should all act now, we should act fast, and we should act together.”

 

How You Can Help

Thanks to stakeholder support and collaboration with communities, UNICEF is supporting Indonesian youth to voice their aspirations and advocate for smoke-free areas and tobacco control for a healthier future.

However, much more remains to be done to make their aspirations a reality. For that we need your support.

If you want to help promote more Indonesian youth programmes like this, you can donate to UNICEF. We would really appreciate it.

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