All ASEAN countries but Indonesia ban cigarette advertising

Indonesia is the only ASEAN member country that has not yet totally banned tobacco companies from advertising their products in print media, television, radio and movies, putting young people at high exposure to cigarette advertisements, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) claims.

"More than a half of Southeast Asian countries, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, have also totally banned cigarette advertisements in sellers' premises," SEATCA executive director Bungon Ritthiphakdee said as quoted by Antara in a statement on Tuesday.

Banning cigarette advertising is one of the control measures SEATCA has called for to prevent the negative health impacts of cigarette consumption.

Tobacco tax and customs in Southeast Asian countries have gradually increased, even though the selling price of cigarettes in several countries is still cheap, below US$1 per pack, Ritthiphakdee said.

All Southeast Asian countries have put health warning labels on cigarette packs as well. Thailand, for example, has started to implement plain cigarette packaging and the packs are sold in a closed rack.

Only adults may buy cigarettes after presenting their identity cards. Kiosks near schools, hospitals and public facilities are prohibited from selling cigarettes.

In Indonesia, however, cigarette selling is more liberal and tobacco products can be found anywhere, including near schools and hospitals, Ritthiphakdee said.

"Some kiosks also have children as shopkeepers, while young people should in fact be protected from the negative effect of cigarette-smoke exposure."

In Southeast Asia, tobacco kills at least 500,000 people per year. Half of adult men in the region are smokers, accounting for 10 per cent of the total smokers in the world, Ritthiphakdee said.