A mall in Jakarta has been sued for allowing people to smoke. Public places should have healthy air.
Even without official bans, people should not smoke in public areas. It is a matter of courtesy. Smokers and managers of places where people gather, simply have to show empathy for others disturbed by cigarette smoke. If they did, there would be no need for lawsuits, such as the one faced by ITC Cempaka Mas.
But we cannot always rely on automatic politeness. The reality is that citing personal freedom, people act selfishly, without caring about other people even if their inconsideration causes problems. This is why in several instances, rules are needed to ensure everybody's rights are protected and to stop every freedom from being taken too far.
Local governments have passed bylaws about smoking in certain areas to prevent a clash of interest between smokers and non-smokers. Under these rules, smokers can still enjoy cigarettes or cigars, or any form of tobacco, in their own room, and non-smokers can still breathe healthy fresh air in public places.
The Jakarta capital city is one of only a few areas with such laws. As of 2005, Bylaw No. 75 stipulates that smoking is banned in public places such as restaurants and shopping malls. Article 18 contains conditions for exceptions in certain areas. Some of these conditions are to prevent smoke from spreading.
Unfortunately, despite support in the form of Gubernatorial Regulation No. 88/2010, these rules are only strong on paper. In practice, the public places mentioned allow people to smoke and force non-smokers to inhale smoke. These places include food courts and coffee shops inside buildings.
This is what happened at ITC Cempaka Mas, which last week resulted in a lawsuit. The Jakarta Citizens Forum (Fakta) sued this Central Jakarta mall for ignoring the regulations and not responding to public complaints. Two other parties that were also asked to share responsibility are mall owners PT Duta Pertiwi and the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency. The lawsuit does not ask for a single rupiah in compensation. All the plaintiffs want is a ruling that sets a legal precedent and that eventually leads to enforcement of the regulations.
Fakta has acted appropriately. Brazen violations of bylaws or gubernatorial regulations cannot be allowed. The lawsuit is also important to ensure that punishment is not only for people who break the rules, but also for those who should ensure their enforcement.
Indonesia is far behind compared to other nations that have strict limits on smoking in public areas. We could bring ourselves in line with them, but first the ruling on the lawsuit against ITC Cempaka Mas must serve as a sign that clean air for non-smokers is very possible.
No. 45/12, July 03, 2012