Some of us are not fortunate enough to access higher education or any education at all. In most cases, it is due to financial problems. The scholarship is one of the best solutions.
Besides government support, educational scholarships can also come from private sectors. This gives students a variety of scholarship options and more opportunities. Yet, some industries are deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ to sponsor educational aid for the negative effects of the products they sell. One of these industries is the tobacco industry.
It has been long debated whether it’s ethical for the tobacco industry (which product is in a sense ‘killing people slowly’) to give scholarships or support any form of education at all (such as events, programs). It is deemed ethical for it is the tobacco industry’s way to make up for its toxic products. At the same time, it is unethical because it is a way for the tobacco industry to ‘sell’ its products to the knowledge-thirsty youth market. In addition, private companies usually bound the scholarship-receivers with work commitment to a certain company after graduation.
Countries around the world have been fighting the smoke industry through strict regulations, protecting its people and especially its youth. A global tobacco control treaty was released on June 7, 2018, known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It includes restrictions upon to what extent tobacco companies could lobby governments, sales targeted on children, passive smoking and recognises a complete ban on tobacco marketing activities.
Indonesia is the only country in Asia who hasn’t signed and ratified the treaty.
Why is it concerning? Indonesia is the second-largest market for tobacco in the world after China. It sells more than 315 billion cigarettes a year. The archipelago also exports cigarettes more than it imports with the annual sales of over US$21 billion and a growth forecasted at around 5% every year.
The Indonesian government views that restricting the tobacco industry could damage the industry which will affect around 2.5 million workers in farming and manufacturing. Most of the farmers and other tobacco labourers live within the poverty line and are very vulnerable to economic changes. The tobacco industry also contributes around 10% of Indonesian tax revenue; the more reason for the government to refuse to restrict the industry.
Indonesia also still allows direct tobacco advertising. The government regulated that TV advertising on cigarettes should be restricted between 9:30 PM to 5 AM, outside of children and teenagers audience’s prime time. Yet they are still exposed through other advertisements; billboards, roadside stalls, internet, shops, restaurants, even music concerts, sports and education.
Many students need financial assistance to attend college. The tobacco industry is known as one of the industries who give plenty of scholarship and other forms of financial aid. Through corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sponsorships, the industry strengthen its role in society.
For example a giant cigarette company from Indonesia, Sampoerna, has developed its own path towards education. Through its Putera Sampoerna Foundation, the company has delivered thousands of scholarships, give thousands of teachers training programs, and even built a school with international academic standard, the Sampoerna Academy and Sampoerna University.
Fellow Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have all banned tobacco companies to attract publicity through their CSR. Brunei even ban the industry from any publicity activity. Indonesia do ban tobacco companies from getting publicity through CSR, but their CSR are still well publicised and the government even endorses or participates in them.
Although it seems unethical, we cannot ignore the amount of contribution that tobacco industry give to the causes it supports. In this case, it’s education. The scholarships, the training, the number of youth who gets access to higher education because of the aids…
It is hard to debate upon something that has penetrated an integral part of the society and most importantly, the national economy. If tobacco companies stop sponsoring educational programs, imagine how many students miss the opportunity to develop themselves? If the tobacco industry is deteriorating, imagine how many people are going to be jobless and hungry? How many families fall deeper into poverty?
But if it lives on and thrive, how many more lives will suffer from smoke? Not just the smokers, but those who couldn’t prevent breathing the same air from the smokers (passive smokers). Indonesia has 260 million people with 37% of it are youths under the age of 20. So much potential threatened with the number of deaths caused by smoking. It is estimated that smoking-related diseases kill almost 250,000 Indonesians every year.
There are very few strong industries in the country and it could be said that Indonesia still cannot afford to lose another strong industry, which is the tobacco industry. But what happens if less and less people are dying from smoke? Will their potential have made up for the loss of one giant industry?