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Calls to Indonesia’s smoking quitline double thanks to powerful media campaign featuring tobacco victims

(Jakarta, Indonesia and New York, USA) – Vital Strategies today congratulated the government of Indonesia on a powerful media campaign, “Batuk Perokok” (Smoker’s Cough), which warns citizens about the deadly harms of tobacco. The campaign prominently featured the stories of two tobacco victims and the number of the Ministry of Health’s national quit smoking telephone line (“quitline”). Initial analysis suggests that the number of daily calls to the national quitline doubled while the campaign was being broadcast.

To coincide with an event in Jakarta today, attended by the Ministry of Health and Vital Strategies, José Luis Castro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vital Strategies, stated:

“We congratulate the Ministry of Health on the success of the “Smokers Cough” campaign in increasing awareness of the real harms of tobacco and prompting tobacco users to call the quitline. This re-affirms the known impact of tobacco victims telling their own stories. We applaud the bravery of Mr. Siahaan and Mr. Maradona for sharing their experiences of using tobacco and suffering tobacco-related disease, in the hope that others will be deterred from using tobacco and sharing their fate. We trust that ‘Smoker’s Cough’ will encourage many tobacco users to quit or never start using this deadly product. And we hope that legislators will pass a ban on tobacco advertising to help protect Indonesia’s youth.”

Addressing the event, Eni Gustina, MD, MPH, Acting Director of Health Promotion and Public Service, Ministry of Health, said: “There are three main messages from this PSA: the first is to introduce the dangers of smoking, the second is to inform the public that a smoker’s cough is not a common cough, it means something has happened to his organs, and the third is to convey the message that there is a Quitline to help people who want to stop smoking.“

Oscar Primadi, DMD, MPH, Head of Communications and Public Service Bureau, Ministry of Health continued: “The Ministry of Health is trying to save the public from the dangers of exposure to cigarette smoke. The economic impact is definitely clear: tobacco’s harm leads to heart disease, stroke, and cancer – all high-cost diseases.”

Smoker’s Cough ran from August 11 – 30, 2017 on four TV stations (RCTI, Global TV, iNews, and Trans7), on billboards and in cinemas. The Broadcast Commission supported the broadcast of images of tobacco-related harm. Vital Strategies provided technical support on the development of the campaign, which was also promoted via the #SuaraTanpaRokok social media campaign and microsite at A tobacco consumption calculator was launched at to coincide with the campaign, enabling smokers to calculate the amount of money they have spent on cigarettes, and what they could have spent that money on. The calculator reveals the economic harm of tobacco use, to reinforce messages about tobacco’s harm to health.

The campaign reached more than 20 million people via broadcast media and more than 1.5 million people via social media. It is a good example of combining best practice measures to reduce tobacco use – hard-hitting media campaigns that increase intention to quit and resources to support smokers moving from intention to action.

The victims featured in “Smoker’s Cough”

Mr. Edison Poltak Siahann is a 76 year-old father of five. In 1995, doctors informed him that he had black spots on his larynx, but he only stopped smoking in 2001, after being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. He had to use his savings and sell his car and property to pay for medical treatment, and had to stop working. From 2018, he will feature on the next round of tobacco pack warnings. He says: “If you want to stop smoking, just stop, totally. Don’t think that reducing your consumption level will help, it’s nonsense, all you need is a commitment to stop.”

Mr. Richard Maradona is a 35 year-old father of two, who started smoking in middle school. He visited a lung specialist in 2016 after finding it hard to breathe during a flight from Surabaya to Jakarta, and discovered that his lungs were black with tar and not functioning properly. He had a thoracoscopy and a thoracotomy, which required him to stay in hospital for nearly a month. The treatment was expensive, and he was absent from work for many weeks. During this time, he realized that his smoking was harming his children, who saw a paediatrician at least twice a month for treatment for prolonged, severe cough. After he stopped smoking, the health of his children improved. His message is: “Smoking not only makes you suffer, it will make your family suffer too, so stop smoking. It has no benefit at all.”

Campaigns that warn consumers about the harms of tobacco help to combat decades of misleading advertising from the tobacco industry. In Indonesia, policymakers are debating the inclusion of a ban on tobacco advertising in the new Broadcast Bill. An expert in this topic also attended today’s event.

Dr. Nina Mutmainnah Armando, a Lecturer in Communication Science at the University of Indonesia notes: “The government should be applauded for including a ban on advertisements for cigarettes and other addictive substances in the revised Broadcast Bill. This shows real concern for protecting children and young people, who are the targets of tobacco advertising. However, that progress is under threat from moves to remove the ban on tobacco advertising from the Bill. Government should listen to the many community groups that support a ban on cigarette advertising in broadcast media, and implement regulations that favor public protection, not those that favor the cigarette industry.”

Notes to Editors

Tobacco’s deadly cost to Indonesia

According to The Tobacco Atlas, more than 2,677,000 children and 53,767,000 adults use tobacco in Indonesia (57.1 percent of men, 3.6 percent of women, 41 percent of boys and 3.5 percent of girls). The proportion of men, boys and girls who use tobacco is higher in Indonesia than in other middle income countries. Tobacco kills 217,400 Indonesians every year and in 2010, it was the cause of 19.8 percent of deaths among adult men and 8.1 percent of deaths among adult women – higher than the average in other middle income countries. Studies indicate that Indonesian males are initiating tobacco use at younger and younger ages – many as early as twelve years old. Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases, which could cost Indonesia’s economy as much as US$4.5 trillion from 2012 to 2030, according to the World Economic Forum.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or