Anastasia Maria Sri Redjeki
(MENAFN- The Conversation) Indonesia has one of the highest smoking rates globally . In 2021, the Ministry of Health estimated there are 69.1 million smokers , the third largest number in the world behind only China and India.
For the past decade, the Indonesian government has introduced policies to try and address this. In 2012, it issued a regulation to reduce smoking rates in the country. This included a mandatory to create smoke-free areas in all local districts. But to enact this, local authorities are required to make laws to set up smoke-free areas.
As of 2018 only 345 out of 514 districts in Indonesia had issued laws on smoke-free areas in 2018. In June 2023, more than ten years after the regulation was issued nationally, 13% of districts were still yet to create local smoke-free area laws.
Our recent study shows the challenges local governments face translating national laws into local laws as well as the role of local politics.
Smoke-free area challenges in three provinces
Smoke-free areas are public places where smoking is forbidden. Breaking this rule can result in various punishments, including fines or imprisonment, depending on the local regulations.
We analysed smoke-free area regulations in three provinces: Aceh, Malang, East Java and Bandung, West Java, to understand how local contexts influence the trajectory of law-making.
Each site represents a different socio-cultural and political context in Indonesia.
Aceh has one of the highest smoking rates in Indonesia and smoking plays an important social role . Aceh also has a unique legal system based on Sharia law, requiring laws to have Islamic justifications.
Malang is considered one of the leading“industrial clusters” of cigarette manufacturing in Indonesia.
Bandung is neither a manufacturing hub for the cigarette industry nor part of Indonesia's tobacco heartland. Still, it did not have a mayor who was very committed to reducing smoking .
In all three cases, there was a large gap between when the central government issued the initial national regulation in 2012 and the issuance of local laws.
Malang took six years to enact local regulations for smoke-free areas. At the same time, Aceh and Bandung did not issue these laws until 2021, 11 years after the initial policy was enacted.
Each local government must go through the formal law-making process, which requires time, money and resources to research and draft the law.
We found the main reason for the delay was a lack of local legislative support. Local governments are also required to discuss the proposed laws with relevant stakeholders to ensure the local community's needs are met.
While some local leaders ardently championed the cause, their ability to influence local parliaments* is limited.
For instance, Bandung's mayor, Ridwan Kamil, fervently endorsed anti-smoking regulations. He introduced a mayoral decree in 2017 and established a smoke-free area task force. Still, the local parliament was not keen, delaying finalising the law until 2021.
In Aceh, before 2019, there was little discussion of the issue, unsurprising given a considerable proportion of the province's politicians were smokers.
There were also differences in the way that the laws were justified.
In Aceh, with the legal system based on Sharia Law, legislators had to find religious justifications for the smoke-free areas. Even though they were required to implement the law in accordance with national regulations, politicians still had to provide a religious rationale.
In the end, they settled on the concept of Hibunnas, which states humans are obligated to take care of themselves and remain healthy and capable. Through this, the law was drafted with the underlying view to protect Aceh's citizens.
Laws in Bandung and Malang did not require any religious justification.
The case studies also suggested industry interests were also at play. For example, the drafting process in Malang was opaque, pandering to tobacco company interests and excluding stakeholders representing tobacco control concerns.
Political dynamics and patchwork laws
Our study also showed how making local laws is intertwined with local political dynamics. The commitment of local government politicians is crucial for steering the trajectory of regulations, often shaping the pace and nature of their inception.
Elections often serve as a turning point, altering the course of legislative trajectories. The 2014 national elections shifted the narrative in Malang with the rise of political parties more supportive of smoke-free areas.
Similar patterns were observable in Bandung and Aceh following the 2019 national elections. The election result shifted the composition of the local government towards political parties that were more pro-tobacco control.
Activists and bureaucrats also played a crucial role in passing smoke-free area regulations by keeping the issue on the political agenda in regions.
Health authorities also kept nudging local politicians to do their jobs. For example, in Malang, the municipal health office formally appealed to the local parliament, advocating for the creation of laws.
In Bandung, a collaboration between regional health office personnel and academics led to drafting a comprehensive law proposal.
In Aceh, a medical doctor, the head of the smoke-free area task force, was pivotal in pushing for the required smoke-free area laws.
Local law-making is complex due to the legacy of political decisions made decades ago, perhaps without a complete understanding of the consequences of deregulation.
Our study highlights the cumbersome process of law creation. Giving local politicians responsibility for creating local laws based on pre-existing national regulations creates multiple issues, especially if they do not see it as a priority.
The system could be more efficient. Taking steps to delineate which laws require local consideration and which can simply be enacted nationally would save time and resources, creating more consistency across Indonesia.
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