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Meta’s Facebook, Instagram Used To Target Indonesians, Including Youth, for E-Cigarettes and Other Nicotine Products

Jakarta, March 30, 2022 –  A first-ever survey of e-cigarette marketing in Indonesia by public health organization Vital Strategies and the Indonesian Consumers Association (YLKI) demonstrates that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms are awash in deceitful e-cigarette ads that may skirt national regulations and are counter to Facebook’s own advertising policies. With more than 170 million internet users, Indonesia has the world’s fourth largest online population. 

“E-cigarettes and vapes are being marketed explicitly as products associated with cool and glamorous lifestyle of young people and harmless to health when in fact they are harmful,” said Mr. Tulus Abadi, Executive Chairman of YLKI. “This is a blatant violation to Laws No. 8 of 1999 concerning Consumers’ Protection, stipulating that consumers have the rights to get clear and honest information. We are launching ’Vape Tricks in Indonesia’  in conjunction with the World’s Consumer Day, to express our support for the government to start initiating regulations concerning vape marketing, particularly those online, to protect consumers in Indonesia, especially youth.” 

“Our ‘Vape Tricks’ report finds Instagram and Facebook as the favorite platforms for E-cigarette marketing in Indonesia,” said Enrico Aditjondro, Associate Director, Southeast Asia at Vital Strategies. “This report is a result of Vital Strategies’ online advertising monitoring tool,  Tobacco Enforcement and Reporting Movement (TERM), which has identified rising trends of online tobacco marketing in Indonesia, India and Mexico. By analyzing e-cigarette marketing in Indonesia between August 13 to December 15, 2021, we demonstrate that Meta’s self-enforced policy of banning nicotine products from being marketed on its Facebook and Instagram platforms is not working. Much more needs to be done to ensure that using social media isn’t an onramp to smoking, illness and death.” 

Key findings of Vape Tricks in Indonesia: How E-cigarette Companies Use Social Media to Hook Youth: 

  • A first-ever survey of e-cigarette marketing in Indonesia by public health organization Vital Strategies and the Indonesian Consumers Association (YLKI) demonstrates that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms are awash in deceitful e-cigarette ads
  • More than two-thirds of the tobacco marketing on social media is for e-cigarettes.
  • Instagram was the platform for 58% of active marketing, with content designed to draw potential young consumers to online retail portals. 
  • Four out of the seven e-cigarette brands marketed on social media are based in China, which is the leading source of e-cigarettes flooding the market in Indonesia.
  •  E-cigarette companies are positioning their products as lifestyle products and mentioning potential harms including: 
  • Positioning products as must-have high-tech gadgets (60% of posts) 
  • Framing products as entertainment devices (13% of posts) 
  • Positioning products as glamorous (8% of social media posts)  
  • Companies are also posting instructional videos (8% of posts) on how to use products 

Tobacco use is a leading public health threat in Indonesia which has some of the highest rates of tobacco use in the world: more than two-thirds of adult men  and 19.2% of young people aged 13-15 use tobacco. This large population of people who use tobacco paired with lax regulations has made Indonesia a desirable target for the e-cigarette industry which has been steadily growing since 2015.E-cigarette use among high schoolers ranges widely by region,  from 10.7% in Yogyakarta to as much as 22.3%37 in Bekasi, West Java. 

 Vapes and e-cigarettes are categorized as Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS)/Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENNDS) and can be defined as electronic and/or battery-operated devices designed to heat nicotine-containing liquid. The World Health Organization, the Ministry of Health Republic of Indonesia, as well as the National Food and Drug Monitoring Agency have stated that vape is harmful to health. 

“Vape Tricks in Indonesia” is based on data collected through Tobacco Enforcement and Reporting Movement (TERM), a digital media monitoring system used to track tobacco marketing online through the systematic analysis of online news, articles, social media posts and conversations. For further details, please visit www.termcommunity.com and follow the conversations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #OnlineTanpaRotrik.  

To read the full report, please visit: https://www.vitalstrategies.org/resources/vape-tricks-in-indonesia/

Editor’s Note 

Lack of policies allow e-cigarette industry to grow 

The World Health Organization (WHO), The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, and National Food and Drug Monitoring Agency have stated that electronic cigarettes are harmful products. Most electronic cigarettes or vapes contain nicotine, an addictive substance harmful to brain development in young people. Indonesia is the only country in  Southeast Asia that has not ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), an international treaty that requires parties to address tobacco use by adopting evidence-based measures. Many countries in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Thailand, and Brunei have banned e-cigarette sales. Other countries like Philippines and Myanmar are in the process of passing laws to regulate and ban e-cigarettes. 

About Indonesian Consumer Association (YLKI, Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia) 

Indonesian Consumer Association (Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia – YLKI) is an independent non-profit organization with a main goal of advocating for consumers’ interests and raising critical awareness regarding consumers’ rights and responsibility. Established on May 11, 1973, YLKI operates by doing studies/tests, responding to complaints and providing legal assistance, and carrying out educational and informational activities, as well as consumer advocacy. YLKI has peer partners in several municipalities and in other provinces, such as Yogyakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Makassar, Medan, Lampung, Banjarmasin, Palu, Denpasar and other cities. Since 1974, YLKI has been  a full member of Consumers International, based in London. 

About Vital Strategies 

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in more than 70 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat 

 For further information please contact Nina Karima at 081908967781 or nina.karima@gmail.com.