Health Ministry Refuse to Join Deliberations on Tobacco Bill

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  • A farmer harvesting tobacco plants in Tanjungwangi Hamlet, Bandung, West Java. TEMPO/Prima Mulia

    A farmer harvesting tobacco plants in Tanjungwangi Hamlet, Bandung, West Java. TEMPO/Prima Mulia

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Health Ministry said it refuses to continue deliberations on tobacco draft bill. “We consistently reject it,” the Health Ministry’s Director for Non-communicable Disease Prevention and Control Lily Sriwahyuni Sulistyowati said on Monday, January 23, 2017.

    In December 2016, a plenary session at the House of Representatives (DPR) listed the tobacco draft bill into the House’s National Legislative Programs (Prolegnas). President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had 60 days to approve or reject deliberations on the draft bill.

    Also read: Tobacco Draft Bill Allegedly Favors Business Owners

    According to Lily, the Health Ministry had also rejected to join the deliberations on the draft bill during the tenure of Minister Nafsiah Mboi. The Health Ministry was asked to become the leading sector in the deliberations on the tobacco draft bill, but the government eventually declined to continue the deliberations. “It will happen again,” she said.

    Mohamad Subuh, Director General of Disease Prevention and Control, the Health Ministry, has questioned the DPR’s reasoning to list the tobacco draft bill into Prolegnas 2017. Moreover, according to Subuh, tobacco tax revenues are not comparable to health care costs incurred by the government to address tobacco problem. “[The government] has to spend five times more in health care costs than tobacco tax revenues,” he said.

    Mukhamad Misbakhun, a member of the Tobacco Draft Bill Working Committee of the Legislative Body, has played down the implications of the Health Ministry’s refusal to engage in the deliberations. According to Misbakhun, the draft bill mostly relates to the tobacco industry and the tobacco farmers’ welfare, meaning that the Industry Ministry and Agriculture Ministry may be appointed as the leading sectors in the deliberations, instead of the Health Ministry.

    Misbakhun is confident that President Joko Widodo will proceed with the deliberations on the tobacco draft bill. “President Joko Widodo will abide by the Constitution, [he] will not reject the deliberation,” he said.

    MITRA TARIGAN