Tue, 14 Nov 2000

House mulls review of nicotine and tar limits

JAKARTA (JP): The House of Representatives proposed on Monday the establishment of a special team to review the government's restriction on nicotine and tar content in clove cigarettes.

Legislators from the House's Commission V for industry and trade affairs agreed in a hearing with the Federation of Indonesian Cigarette Producers (Gappri) that the team was needed to ensure the restriction was fair to local cigarette makers.

According to the legislators, the team should comprise of Gappri representatives, the commission, as well as representatives from the government as decision makers.

"We welcome the opportunity to present our views to the government," Ismanu said after a hearing with the House's Commission V.

Indonesians smoke 202 billion cigarettes a year, almost 90 percent of which are clove-blended cigarettes which have a higher content of nicotine and tar.

Nicotine and tar content in handmade clove-blended cigarettes is averaged at 60 milligrams nicotine and 5 milligrams tar, while machine-made local cigarettes contain 50 milligrams nicotine and 2.5 milligrams tar.

The government issued a decree in October last year which requires all cigarettes produced and sold in Indonesia to contain a maximum of 20 milligrams of nicotine and 1.5 milligrams of tar as was suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The decree stated that implementation would start two years from the date of issuance for industries producing machine-made cigarettes, and between five to 10 years for hand-made cigarettes.

The deadline, considered to be too soon especially for small scale cigarette producers, was then reviewed in Governmental Decree No. 38/2000.

The new decree stipulates that implementation is to start in two years for machine-made white cigarette producers, seven years for machine-made clove cigarette producers, and 10 years for handmade clove cigarette producers.

However according to Ismanu, the government should give a transitional period of up to 15 years especially for small-scale entrepreneurs.

Ismanu said cigarette companies in general were still using simple technology so the tar and nicotine levels of their products were still high. Smaller scale enterprises in particular would suffer the most because they lack the technology and the capital to comply with the standard.

Ismanu said that special treatment and dispensation should be given for handmade clove-blended cigarettes.

"We from Gappri want handmade kreteks (clove-blended cigarettes) to be treated as a special case, like cigars, because it is impossible to comply with the standard they want," he said.

Ismanu said that the government had been inconsistent in dealing with cigarette producers.

On one hand the government wants cigarettes to be limited, on the other hand it wants the industry to pay as much excise tax as possible to finance state budget.

The government expects Rp 10.3 trillion ($1.14 billion) income from excise tax this year, and Rp 16.3 trillion in 2001.

As of September 2000, Gappri recorded production of 168.3 million cigarettes and paid Rp 9.9 trillion in excise tax, Ismanu said. (tnt)