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Will Indonesia mitigate COVID-19 by enforcing stronger tobacco control and ratifying global tobacco treaty?

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Bobby Ramakant CNS

End tobacco is an urgent priority to advance towards Health For All especially in times of COVID-19 pandemics and crises
End tobacco is an urgent priority to advance towards Health For All especially in times of COVID-19 pandemics and crises
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President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, has been sent an appeal to urgently strengthen the response to corona virus disease (COVID-19) in the country, by stronger enforcement of comprehensive and evidence-based tobacco control measures, which includes immediate ratification of the global tobacco treaty (World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control). Studies in various countries globally show that people with pre-existing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are more likely to become severely ill or die from COVID-19. Tobacco use is a common major risk factor of most NCDs.

This appeal to the President of Indonesia is endorsed by forty two associations of senior academicians, medical doctors, specialist doctors (experts of cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, internal medicine, children, among others), farmers, students, consumer rights groups, journalists, tobacco control and public health advocates, among others.

Two pandemics: Tobacco and COVID-19

- one is entirely preventable today -

The world is battling COVID-19. The deadly association between the two pandemics of tobacco and COVID-19, puts many millions of lives on risk. As of now, it is a worldwide public health emergency to contain the spread of corona virus which causes COVID-19. But tobacco epidemic which kills over 8 million people every year, is entirely preventable - and industry that reaps profits is propelling lies-after-lies to promote its markets, even in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Emerging scientific evidence suggests that tobacco smokers are at risk of more severe outcomes of COVID-19 than non-smokers, including death. There is an added urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic to take decisive actions for tobacco control. Governments around the world have to step up to phasing out tobacco. Its time to end tobacco" said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Regional Deputy Director (Asia Pacific), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).

In Indonesia, 5136 people have been infected with COVID-19 with 469 deaths (9.1% case fatality rate) which places the country among those with high case fatality rates (as of 15 April 2020). Globally there are over 2 million confirmed corona virus positive cases.

In Indonesia, tobacco smoking is a leading common risk factor for NCDs that already are the major cause of high burden of diseases and untimely deaths. The link with NCDs and smoking is especially concerning because Indonesia has one of the highest smoking rates in the world with 63% of adult males smoking. The high smoking rates exacerbates the high incidence of NCDs. RISKESDAS 2018 shows that the top causes of death in Indonesia are cancer, stroke, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and hypertension (all NCDs).

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