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Tobacco Companies Print Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packs in Indonesia

Update Date: Jun 24, 2014 03:00 PM EDT

Tobacco companies in Indonesia have started printing graphic warning labels on their cigarette packs. Although the newly designed products have not reached the shops yet, the labels represent a huge step forward for Indonesia, a nation that has some of the highest smoking rates throughout the world.

"Starting today, cigarette producers must start to print the warning," Minister of Social Welfare Agung Laksono said according to the Wall Street Journal.

In Southeast Asia, roughly one in every five adults smokes. Due to the dangers of cigarette smoking, Indonesia has finally jumped on the anti-tobacco wagon. In January 2013, federal officials informed cigarette manufacturers that they had 18-months to print graphic warning images and labels about the health hazards of smoking onto their products. The images have to make up 40 percent of the package. Companies had five options to choose from. Three of them include photographs of mouth, throat and lung cancers. The fourth one depicts a man smoking with the label "Smoking Can Kill You," and the fifth picture is of a man who is smoking while carrying his baby accompanied with the line, "Smoking Close to Children is Dangerous."

Cigarette packs that do not have these labels will be removed from the market within two to three months. Companies found in violation of the law could be subjected to five years in prison and a fine worth $41,667. So far, a recent study conducted by the National Commission for Child Protection found that only six brands from two companies have added warnings. There are a total of 3,393 brands produced by 672 companies within the nation. Despite the new regulations, tobacco companies are not too worried about their sales.

"It seems like the health warning does not have a significant impact on sales in the countries that have implemented this. We shall see if it will have any impact on our sales," said Surjanto Yasaputera, corporate secretary of PT Wismilak Inti Makmur, a small cigarette manufacturer, reported by Reuters.

On the other hand, Deni Kurniawan, project manager with the Indonesian Institute for Social Development, stated, "I'm optimistic [the campaign] will be effective because smokers will see the spine-tingling graphic warnings."

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