Smoking Threatens Indonesia’s Demographic Bonus

The Jakarta post, page 3

Mahmud Zaeni, 38, started smoking when he was teenager and he is now struggling to quit. He has been smoking since he was in senior high school. He successfully stopped smoking for about six months, from March until August last year, but his efforts were shattered because he surrounded by smokers. He added that it’s hard when your surroundings do not support your effort.

Mahmud, who works for a private company in Jakarta, is one of many Indonesians who started smoking early and are unable to break the habit as an adult.

Health official and anti-tobacco activist are concerned that many young Indonesians are facing similar struggles and will not be able to break their smoking habit, just when Indonesia is supposed to reap from the so-called demographic bonus.

Data from the Central Statistic Agency’s (BPS) 2015 National Socioeconomic Survey shows that about 20 percent of Indonesians between the ages of 14 and 24 are smokers. The greatest prevalence for smoking is among 25 to 44-year-olds, at 35 percent.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, just two days before the 4th Indonesian Conference on Tobacco in Jakarta, Health Ministry officials and anti-tobacco activists announced that the high number of young smokers could jeopardize the nation’s development.

Specifically, the high number of smokers who are in their productive age could thwart Indonesia’s aim of benefiting from a demographic bonus expected to occur in 2035, said Tobacco Control Support Center head Sumarjati Arjoso.

She explained that a demographic bonus is when the number of people in their productive ages is higher than those in the dependent ages. This can be achieved in 2035. She added but if the number of young smokers keeps increasing, these productive-age smokers would get sick and become unproductive. This means that we will not be able to enjoy the opportunities of demographic bonus.

Health Ministry health promotion director Dedi Kuswenda said the increasing number of productive-age smokers could lead to a demographic disaster. He said this is exacerbated by the fact that the age at which children start smoking keeps getting lower. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s infant and maternal mortality rate is also still high.

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