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To prevent the unnecessary loss of life during the COVID-19 crisis, 42 Indonesian organisations – representing civil society, academic and professional organisations – have signed a letter to the President of Indonesia and the national government calling for strong action to address the relationship between tobacco and the virus.

Echoing The Union’s official statement on smoking and COVID-19, the letter highlighted the emerging evidence that smokers are more likely to be infected by COVID-19, and are more likely to experience a more severe or deadly form of the virus – as are people who have pre-existing non-communicable diseases, for which tobacco use is a leading risk factor.

There is also evidence that the use of electronic cigarettes, waterpipes and chewing tobacco products increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The letter additionally highlights concern from the public health community that the tobacco industry is spreading misinformation and denying the link between smoking and COVID-19, and is capitalising on the crisis to improve its public image by providing aid to governments under the guise of ‘corporate social responsibility’ activities.

“This call to action is welcomed and timely,” said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Deputy Regional Director for Asia Pacific at The Union. “The deadly partnership between tobacco and COVID-19 is a particular concern for Indonesia, as 67 million Indonesians are active smokers. It’s time to end tobacco.”

The letter includes a list of 10 recommendations to the national government of Indonesia, including:

- Undertake campaigns to increase the awareness of the higher risk of COVID-19 for smokers

- Ensure that the smoking status of people diagnosed with COVID-19 is recorded

- Activate a national smoking cessation service to help people quit smoking

- Enforce a ban on all types of tobacco advertising and prohibit tobacco industry donations and partnership with the government

- Strengthen the implementation and enforcement of smokefree legislation and immediately ratify the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

- Ensure that there is an uninterrupted supply of medicines and services to people with chronic diseases and tuberculosis.

Read the full letter.

 

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