Lazy enforcement of smoking restrictions in Jakarta’s dining areas

By admin, in Observations on .

When it comes to cultural etiquette and dining in Jakarta, smoking is prevalent in most, if not all, dining places. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with smokers. I have no desire or inclination to stop you from your daily or hourly puff. But I am baffled that smoke continues to follow me inside to the residence of my favourite coffee or cocktail, here in Jakarta. Aren’t we all entitled to clean air whilst dining at our favorite restaurant, café or bar?

You want an outside table with a view? No worries, there’ll just be a side of smoke with that. Only, it’s not just a side of barely-harmful-who-really-cares-smoke. It strikes me as common courtesy and thoughtfulness to refrain from smoking inside, yet this concept is yet to stick in The Big Durian.

Internationally, the number of smokers in most countries are declining. In Indonesia, the third-largest tobacco consumer in the world, the opposite is true. Unfortunately, this social custom too often and easily translates onto Jakarta’s dining scene, and the mix of smoking and non-smoking Indonesians, expats and visitors remain robbed of the choice of having their air free of toxins while eating.

According to Article 13 No. 2/2005 on air pollution control, smoking areas inside buildings should be physically separated from other public areas and must have good air circulation. I wholeheartedly applaud Jakarta for being at the forefront of anti-tobacco legislation in Indonesia. The 2005 bylaw on air pollution control banning smoking from five types of public facilities (public transportation, healthcare buildings, places of worship, schools, and children’s areas) was a firm step in the right direction. But there’s a long way to go before Jakarta’s smoking regulations, or enforcement thereof, is anything to be proud of. To achieve this, we need a strong city administration committed to enforcing these regulations and penalising violators.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one of the most polluted days in Beijing poses less risk than a room of three smokers. It’s been over a decade since the city’s first smoking ban bylaw, including a total of three gubernatorial laws (2005, 2010 and 2012) on regulating smoking in public places. However, a study carried out by the Jakarta Smoke Free Coalition, published in September last year, revealed that 70 percent of over 1000 surveyed public areas and buildings in Jakarta violated smoking regulations. The list of perpetrators included schools, shopping centers, government offices and markets from all over Jakarta. Despite the city administration’s reassurance of supposed random check ups of businesses; naming and shaming is as far as punishment of violators has gone.

Dina Kania, the WHO Indonesia officer for the Tobacco Free initiative, said cigarettes were no longer exclusively related to health problems but could also lead to social and economic problems. A shift in attitudes to a stronger, more health conscious frame of mind would not only mean a healthier population less affected by the myriad of health concerns associated internationally with smoking, but a more productive, economically viable society. Of course, a cultural shift is idealistic at best, and too big to ask of Jakartans anytime soon, at worst.

Just late last year, after years of enforcing the city’s bylaws against smoking in some public places and Indonesia’s first ever anti-smoking mass-media campaign in 2014, Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama talked of relaxing smoking bans. He spoke of how a failure to refrain people from smoking in public led him to considering relaxing smoking laws. The governor cited business concerns, saying a total prohibition of smoking in shopping centers would upset businesses.

Widyastuti Soerojo of the Tobacco Control Resource Center (IAKMI) said it was known that the Indonesian government has close-knit relationships with cigarette companies, in various forms of cooperation, including through sponsorship and donations. Despite current regulations against patrons smoking indoors, in places like malls that lack “physically separate” and “well-ventilated” smoking areas, patrons continue to puff away with businesses offering little to no reinforcement of regulations, even providing ashtrays in non-smoking areas.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), a study conducted of Indonesian tobacco use in 2011, reveals 85 percent of adults were exposed to tobacco smoke in restaurants and over half were exposed to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces. Around 25,000 deaths in Indonesia are the result of second-hand smoke.

Please Governor, don’t sway when it comes to the black and white issue of smoking indoors, and the health of the city. Clean air and anti-tobacco campaigns are one part of improving the quality of life in Jakarta, but undoubtedly an important one. Stand firm against lax tobacco policy. Give Jakarta’s shoppers and diners (and eventually, all Jakartans in populated, indoor public places) the choice of clean air. It’s time to leave the smoke outside. (SHANNON SCHUBERT)



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