JAKARTA — Australian, British and US rock bands including The Smashing Pumpkins and Stereophonics have been urged to withdraw from a music festival in Indonesia because of its tobacco sponsorship.
Anti-tobacco activists and health experts from Australia, the United States and Wales have expressed their concern that the bands’ actions will encourage youths to smoke in a country with high and rising addiction rates.
The country of some 240 million people is one of the last lightly-regulated major tobacco markets in the world and is paying the price in terms of growing rates of addiction, especially among women and children.
Its reputation as the wild west of tobacco control was graphically illustrated earlier this year with the release of a video on the Internet of a two-year-old Javanese boy with a 40-cigarette-a-day habit.
The Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said it had written to US bands The Smashing Pumpkins, MUTEMATH and Dashboard Confessional asking them to cancel their appearances at the Java Rockin’Land festival next month.
“As long as this event is sponsored by a tobacco company, any band that participates should know that it is helping market cigarettes to children,” Campaign president Matthew L. Myers said.
“If these bands reject tobacco sponsorship, they can send a powerful message that they care about the health of the world?s children and will not allow their name and talent to be used to market deadly tobacco products.”
In Australia, health experts have accused local bands The Vines and Wolfmother of ignoring the connection between tobacco marketing and smoking-related deaths.
“Tobacco industry marketing is a key factor in what is killing people from tobacco-caused disease — about six million a year in fact,” Simon Chapman and Becky Freeman of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health wrote in an article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website.
Indonesia has “virtually no tobacco control policies”, making it a “tobacco industry paradise where publicity for music festivals like the one Wolfmother and The Vines will participate in wallpaper the country’s media,” they said.
In Britain, anti-smoking group Ash Wales has similarly condemned Welsh band Stereophonics for agreeing to play at the October 8 to 10 festival in Jakarta.
“We urge the Stereophonics to demand the withdrawal of tobacco sponsorship and any associated branding from the festival or alternatively to pull out,” Ash Wales chief executive Tanya Buchanan told Wales Online website Tuesday.
“If the Stereophonics go ahead with a tobacco-sponsored concert they are, by choice, being spokespeople for the tobacco industry and helping them to market to children.”
In all, 14 foreign bands are scheduled to play at the festival, along with a host of local acts. Advertising for the event includes cigarette branding and tickets are being sold at a discount to students.
The festival, billed as the biggest in Southeast Asia, is being sponsored by Gudang Garam, a major Indonesian producer of clove cigarettes.
The company regularly sponsor music events targeted at young people, saying it wants to promote Indonesian bands and associate its product with rock’n'roll values.
Wolfmother has responded to the criticism by issuing a statement on its website saying it does not “support or condemn the sponsors” and will play the gig for the fans who have “parted with their very own cold hard cash”.
In the past two years, US artists Alicia Keys and Kelly Clarkson refused to play in Indonesia until their promoters dropped tobacco sponsorships.
But several other Western musicians — most recently former Guns’n'Roses guitarist Slash — have played with the backing of the tobacco industry.
Indonesia earns billions of dollars a year in tax revenues from tobacco companies, which employ millions of people across the country.
Cigarette consumption in the Southeast Asian archipelago soared 47 percent in the 1990s, according to the World Health Organisation.