Indonesian Islamic Leaders Ban Smoking

Indonesia's top Islamic body, the Ulema Council, has passed an edict restricting Muslims from smoking in public places, Reuters reported Jan. 28.

The Council passed a “fatwa” — a religious opinion that while nonbinding separates those who do not follow it as sinful — against public smoking. The fatwa also prohibited pregnant women and children from smoking.

Indonesia's tobacco industry, and some smokers, expressed outraged over the ruling, saying that religion should not weigh into the decision to smoke.

“I am going to keep smoking, because religion must stay away from this matter,” said Wisena, 33, a Muslim who works in a fish shop. “We have government regulation for this kind of thing.”

Indonesia is the world's fifth largest tobacco market, with cigarettes sold for as little as $1 per pack. Taxes from cigarettes account for roughly 10 percent of government income. The country's finance ministry said he fears that the fatwa could lead to a 5-10 percent decrease in cigarette output for 2009.

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