Press Release

CISDI Documentary Film Behind One Cigarette: Counteracting the Narrative on Tobacco Farmers and Laborers

Amru Aginta Sebayang • 21 Nov 2022

Jakarta, 24 November 2022 - Today, Center for Indonesia Strategic Development Initiative (CISDI) launched the Documentary Film "Behind One Trunk" at XXI Metropole, Cikini, Central Jakarta. CISDI portrays the reality of tobacco workers and farmers in the cigarette business ecosystem through this film.

CISDI Project Lead Tobacco Control and documentary director Iman Zein revealed that there is often a narrative that tobacco farmers and laborers will be badly affected by the increase in tobacco excise. But this is inversely proportional to the findings of the field.

“In the field, farmers complain about the bad trade system. They do not have the independence to determine the price. Not to mention the weather factor that sometimes makes farmers fail to harvest. So, their losses have nothing to do with taxes. If allocated properly, the Tobacco Excise Revenue Sharing Fund (DBHCT) has a good impact on farmers," said Iman.

This was confirmed by Sukiman and Istanto, who used to work as tobacco farmers. Now both choose to plant a multicultural.

“Cigarette prices keep going up, but the price of tobacco leaves is the same. This confused the farmers. We also want to be prosperous. But in reality, the welfare of farmers and industry is disparate," said Sukiman.

On the same occasion, Istanto also explained that the welfare of farmers had increased after diversifying their agriculture.

“There used to be a long wet season. Many tobacco farmers suffer losses due to crop failure, and some even sell their agricultural land. This anxiety ended when we switched crops. Unexpectedly, plants such as beans and chilies grown by local residents have been able to be exported. DBHCT supported the planting process after we wrote to the President,” explained Istanto.

The pros and cons of excise tax increases always occur every year. The welfare of farmers and tobacco industry workers constantly clashes in the cigarette excise debate. Yurdhina in Meili, CISDI's Chief Strategist, also questioned the integrity of this narrative. According to him, almost every year, the Ministry of Finance consistently raises tobacco excise, but cigarette production does not decrease, instead, it tends to increase.

“Last year, cigarette production in Indonesia increased by 7.27%. In 2020, Indonesia produced 298.4 billion sticks, but in 2021 cigarette production will increase to 320.1 billion sticks. In fact, in that year, cigarette excise increased by an average of 12.5%. So where is the proof that the industry will lose money if the cigarette tax is increased?” Yurdhina said.

In line with Yurdhina, Founder & CEO of CISDI, Diah Satyani Saminarsih, the executive producer, also hopes that the narrative regarding tobacco workers and farmers will not just be a slogan to stem the increase in tobacco excise.

"Based on the results of the 2021 CISDI study, an increase in cigarette excise tax of up to 45% can still have a positive net impact on Indonesia's economic conditions, whether it's increasing state revenues or employment opportunities. The goal of lowering the prevalence of smokers will also be achieved. So, there shouldn't be any doubts about raising tobacco excise," said Diah.

At the end of the film discussion session, Diah Saminarsih stated that this documentary opens our eyes to see another side of workers in the tobacco sector. “It turns out that behind one cigarette is the real reality of tobacco farmer life. There is still a lot of homework to be completed, especially on tobacco control policies. Multisector involvement is highly desirable so there are no more policy-making mistakes," Diah concluded.

Watch the premiere screening of the documentary film “Behind One Cigarette” on the CISDI Youtube channel on 26 November 2022 (19.00 WIB)