JAKARTA (Reuters) - The Indonesian unit of Philip Morris International has pulled promotional material with cigarette branding for a concert it is sponsoring by R&B singer Alicia Keys after complaints from anti-smoking campaigners.
The Grammy Award-winning American singer is due to perform in the Indonesian capital Jakarta later on Thursday as part of her “As I Am” world tour, promoting her chart-topping album of the same title.
“We respect those who are concerned and disagree” with the firm’s sponsorship, said Niken Rachmad, a spokeswoman for Indonesia’s second-biggest cigarette maker, PT Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna Tbk.
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids sent letters to Keys and to Philip Morris Chief Executive Louis Camilleri requesting the withdrawal of the cigarette firm’s sponsorship of the concert.
“Approximately 35 percent of the population smokes, and an estimated 200,000 deaths per year in Indonesia are caused by tobacco-related illness,” Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in its letter to the New York-born singer, which can be seen on www.tobaccofreekids.org/aliciakeys.
The group said it was particularly concerned because “an estimated 78 percent of current Indonesian smokers started before the age of 19.”
Cigarettes in Indonesia, the world’s fifth-largest tobacco market, are among the cheapest in the world, priced at around $1 a pack.
The $8-billion tobacco industry also plays an important economic role, with tax on cigarettes accounting for about 10 percent of government income in the past, while the sector provides millions of jobs.
As a result, Indonesia is reluctant to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), aimed at cutting cigarette consumption, while bans on smoking in public areas are rarely enforced.
Sampoerna is a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc’s Philip Morris, the largest cigarette-maker in the United States.
Reporting by Evelyn Djuwidja and Tyagita Silka; Editing by Ed Davies