Philip Morris Indonesian deal “a blow to regional health”

16 Mar 2005

Kretek cigarette move thumbs nose at world tobacco treaty

A move by tobacco giant Philip Morris to take over an Indonesian company will be a major threat to public health in Southeast Asia, say regional health leaders.

The AUD$6.6b bid by Philip Morris’ Altria Group for Sampoerna will be a major step in Altria’s ambition to be the market leader in heavily-smoking Indonesia, giving it a significant foothold in the production of clove or “kretek” cigarettes which constitute more than 90% of the country’s cigarette production.

Indonesia is also a major exporter to China, and Altria says it sees potential to increase exports elsewhere.

Says Mary Assunta of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance:
”This move is of very serious concern, since Indonesia is the only Southeast Asian country not to have signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – so it can ignore the tobacco control measures being put in place by its regional neighbours. “So Philip Morris is apparently trying to get around the treaty in this case by targeting a country which has not signed it. “Kretek cigarettes are becoming popular with Indonesia’s neighbours – such as Malaysia, which has a large Indonesian migrant labour force. A takeover of Sampoerna will give Philip Morris an even bigger and better share of Asia’s kretek market, especially when combined with the aggressive marketing of a powerful transnational company.” Adds Anne Jones of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia: “This is a strange move from a company which has been energetically promoting itself as ‘socially responsible’. It would appear to make nonsense of the company’s claim that it does not want more people to smoke, and that it is not targeting the world’s poorest communities. Indonesia has a high smoking rate and widespread poverty. “Governments should not be deceived by this company’s claims of social responsibility when its actions continue to show it as a major threat to the lives of Southeast Asia’s people.”

Comment:                     Mary Assunta, SE Asia Tobacco Control Alliance    ph. (02) 9351-7800

Anne Jones, CEO, ASH Australia   ph. (02) 9334-1876   m. 0417-227-879

Media inquiries:             Stafford Sanders    ph. (02) 9334-1823    m. 0412-070-194      

ASH website:


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