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22 June 2010

Tobacco growers protest flavoured cigarette ban

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A ban on flavoured cigarettes could threaten millions of tobacco jobs, the BBC reports from a meeting of Asian tobacco growers in Indonesia.

Asian tobacco growers are meeting in Indonesia for a two-day summit on the challenges facing the industry.

It comes after a recent recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ban ingredients such as clove and other flavours in tobacco products.

Asian tobacco growers say if the WHO ruling is enforced it could threaten millions of tobacco farmers' jobs.

Indonesia is the world's largest producer of clove cigarettes and is particularly concerned about the ban.

Tobacco growers from India, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are taking part in the summit in Jakarta. It is the first of its kind and members hope that the Asia Tobacco Forum will prove to be an effective lobby group for their goals.

Their biggest concern is how to deal with the WHO's recent recommendation to ban flavoured tobacco products.

According to the association of Asian tobacco growers, the ruling could put an estimated 50 million jobs in the region at risk.

In Indonesia, most of the tobacco companies out-source the growing of the plant to small farmers, who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.

Abdus Setiawan, head of the Indonesian Tobacco Farmers' Association, said 93 percent of the cigarettes made in Indonesia are kretek clove cigarettes.

"This will mean a loss of jobs, this will mean a problem with the government's poverty alleviation programmes, because a lot of these farmers are depending only on those products," he said.

In September 2009, the United States banned flavoured cigarettes.

According to local reports, that move cost tobacco growers here almost $300 million in losses.

Indonesia subsequently filed a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization against the US, saying the ban unfairly targeted Indonesian cigarettes.


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