Eastern Promise

Thank You for (Not) Smoking

Bone-bone village in South Sulawesi is famously known asa a smokefree village, the first of its kind in Indonesia, thanks to mayor Muhammad Idris, head of the village. His vision has been adopted by the local government, which plans a smoke-free regency by 2013.

 

Big billboards with the words ‘Thank you for not smoking’ and ‘Keep your heart healthy’ greet visitors entering Bone-bone village. Doors are glued with ‘Smoke-free Home’ stickers. There was definitely not a single person smoking in sight. Thereareb’t even any ashtrays. The luscious green landscape and its fresh air reinforce the image of a healthy village. Apparently, not only is smoking prohibited, bringing cigarettes is as well.

This idea of a healthy village took shape when Muhammad Idris, 46, was elected as Bone-bone mayor 19 years ago. He gradually turned the area into a smoke-free zona over the years. Residents’ health has improved since. “Nowadays smoker’s cough is rarely heard,” said Rahmatia, 24, Bone-bone health officer. The number of unemployed has also decreased as children get higher education. “Parents can now afford to send their children to school, since they longer  spend  it on cigarettes,” said Idris proudly. And he was well rewarded: In 2009 Idris received a gold brooch from the Ministry of Health for his ‘healthy village’ achievement.

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Upon returning from his studies in Makassar, Idris was concerned at his village’s grave state : the  financial situation of the people had  worsened and children as young as 6 were smoking. In 1992, when he was elected mayor, the father of eight proposed to ban smoking. “At that time, 60 percent of smokers couldn’t afford to send their children to school,” said Idris. From 10 youngsters studying at university, only four, including him, could graduate. “The rest wasted all their money on cigarettes,” he recalled.

The mayor began by assessing, coversing and familiarizing himself with the people. In 2000, Idris finally gained the support of local figures. He started by greeting every resident, asking them if they still had difficulties to quit smoking.

In the same year he prohibited cigarettes sales. At first there there was opposition as shop owners feared they would lose money. Even carpenters feared that they could not concentrate if they did not smoke. But Idris patiently persuaded them to break their bad habit.

From 2001, smoking in public places and festivals was banned. By 2002, smoking was barred anywhere in the village. The campaingn gained momentum when the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa prohibiting cigarettes in 2004. “This makes my job easier because Bone-bone’s residents follow their religion strictly,” said Idris.

But it has not all been smooth sailing. “Some people did not  support the prohibition, as they could see smokers who lived comfortably,” said Idris. But that did not deter him. Fortunately, by 2008 al 600 residents decided to support the ban.

In 2009 a village bylew was made to establish a smoke-free zone indefinitely that includes sanctions. One has to perform a half day of community service for smoking in public. “I was once ordered to clean the mosque,” said Syahril, 28.

Residents feel the benefits now. “I feel healthier and stronfer,” said Amran, 25. Irba, 36 was thankful. “After my husband stopped smoking, I have additional household budget,” she said.

The advantages of quitting smoking ore not limites to Bone-bone. Enrekang Regent, La Tinro La Tunrung, was inspired by Idris’s effort. “It’s been four years since my last puff,” he said. La Tinro has been promoting a healthy lifestyle and plans to implement a smoke-free zone in his regency by 2013. “I will propose a bylaw for a smoke-free zone to the legislators soon,” he said. (by Irmawati,   Tempo English Edition, August 24-30, 2011. Outreach, hal 5)

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