In Marlboro’s last frontier, a smokers’ rights group is defending the “human right” to light up
At 25, he is the chain-smoking head of the Indonesian smokers’ rights group Komunitas Kretek, and he has one message for “anti-smoking fundamentalists” from the West: butt out.
His organization, which doubles as a trade promotion group for the local cigarette industry, makes its aim clear on its website: “To uphold the independence of the nation against foreign threats to the local commodity.”
And it has some ideas that would be controversial, to say the least, in the West. Among them is that smoking kretek, a local type of clove cigarette, is “not addictive,” can help treat asthma, and even cures bad breath.
It also lists some novel, and not so novel, reasons against tobacco regulation: It will damage the advertising industry, people on scholarships from tobacco companies will lose out, and nicotine is found in vegetables that we eat, so it must be fine in cigarettes.
And the push for stricter tobacco regulation is all part of a culture war from the West, according to Purnomo, who had his first cigarette at 12.
One of his organization’s key activities is visiting cafés and reminding people of the their “constitutionally mandated right to smoke.”
“Smoking is a legal activity which is protected by the law!” reads one of the signs given to cafés to display.
“It is a human right to smoke. Smokers feel like they don’t have their rights anymore,” he says. “We need to stand up for our rights!”
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