From The Economist print edition
Where there's smoke
There’s no fiery religious passion
LIFE is hard for Indonesia’s anti-tobacco lobby. More and more teenagers are smoking; tobacco is still advertised on television and at concerts and sporting events; and the police fail to enforce even the most basic smoking bans. Some 70% of Indonesian men older than 20 smoke, and 400,000 Indonesians die each year from smoking-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organisation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, anti-smoking groups have turned to religion.
They have teamed up with Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organisation, with some 30m members. It has issued a fatwa declaring smoking haram, or forbidden under Islam. There is, however, a snag. The ruling is useless. Indonesia has more than 190m Muslims, and the government is occasionally guilty of pandering to the religious right. In April the Constitutional Court refused to repeal a 1965 blasphemy law, which has strict provisions that are widely abused by Islamist groups. On the other hand, Indonesia’s constitution and government are secular. Fatwas have no legal force and are widely flouted.
This did not stop religious groups and the anti-smoking lobby from mobilising to try to stop a planned concert in Jakarta by Kelly Clarkson, an American singer. It was to be sponsored by Djarum, one of the country’s main tobacco companies, and its L.A. Lights cigarette brand. Muhammadiyah—though not other religious groups—declared the concert also haram.
It didn’t matter. The uproar only served to boost ticket sales, and the concert was due to go ahead on April 29th, after Ms Clarkson issued a statement saying she was unaware of the sponsorship arrangement and was personally opposed to smoking. L.A. Lights withdrew as the show’s main sponsor.
The brand, however, may well have emerged the winner from the controversy. Not only did it receive far more publicity than its sponsorship money would have bought. It also earned a bad-boy image that has done it no harm with teenage smokers.
Meanwhile, the religious right and anti-smoking lobby dented their own credibility. Busy vituperating against Ms Clarkson’s concert—after foreign activists spotted the smoking link—they kept hypocritically mum about the L.A. Lights Open, a volleyball tournament held at the same time on the island of Batam.
There might be better targets for the anti-smoking lobbies, such as the failure to enforce a four-year old ban on smoking in Jakarta’s buildings. That would at least spare Indonesians the embarrassment of watching their elected representatives on live television, puffing away in the chambers of parliament.
Retrived from: http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16009377