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Indonesia begins printing graphic health warnings on cigarette packs

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A vendor of locally grown tobacco smokes a cigarette in a market in Indonesia. (REUTERS/Junaidi Hanafiah)

Cigarette manufactures in Indonesia, one of the world's biggest tobacco markets, began printing graphic health warnings on packets on Tuesday, but they have yet to appear in shops and the companies involved do not seem too worried about plunging sales.

Indonesia, home to the pungent "kretek" clove and tobacco cigarette, has joined the ranks of countries across the world enforcing stricter anti-tobacco laws to deter smoking, especially among youth.

But tobacco companies appeared undeterred by the potential impact on sales in Southeast Asia's largest economy, where one in every five people smokes.

"It seems like the health warning does not have a significant impact on sales in the countries that have implemented this. We shall see if it will have any impact on our sales," said Surjanto Yasaputera, corporate secretary of PT Wismilak Inti Makmur, a small cigarette manufacturer.

"Our target is to increase that by 20 percent to 25 percent this year. For now we still maintain this target."

Australia introduced strict packaging rules in 2012, with a combination of graphic photos of smoker ailments overlaid on plain brown packs with no branding or logos.

But deliveries of tobacco to retailers in Australia rose slightly last year for the first time in at least five years.

Australia is being closely watched for signs of success as other nations including Ireland, New Zealand and Britain explore similar measures.

Tobacco is responsible for six million deaths a year and the World Health Organisation estimates that number could rise beyond eight million by 2030.

As well as causing cancer and other chronic respiratory conditions, smoking is also a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases, the world's No. 1 killer.

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