Three leading British singers have been accused of furthering the aims of "Big Tobacco" by agreeing to perform at an Indonesian music festival sponsored by one of the country’s largest cigarette companies.
Multi-platinum selling artist Joss Stone is due to perform at the Java Jazz Festival later this week as part of a billing which also features Craig David and Lisa Stansfield as part of a three-day extravaganza expected to be attended by up to 100,000 people in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
The event’s main sponsor is Djarum, the country’s third biggest tobacco company, which like other manufacturers specialises in the production of clove-flavoured cigarettes known as “kreteks”. All three British stars are due to perform on a stage promoting one of Djarum’s leading brands.
Campaigners called on the trio to withdraw from the festival, accusing Indonesia of failing to crack down on tobacco advertising and allowing companies to glamorise their products and entice new young smokers through an association with international stars and cultural events.
David, who last month signed a new deal with Universal records and is due to set out on a world tour, rejected the claims, saying he promoted healthy living and was against smoking but legislation against tobacco was a matter for the Indonesian authorities.
Indonesia has the world’s highest smoking rate for men, put at between 63 and 66 per cent of males, and according to one recent study more than 200,000 people a year die in the country from smoking-related disease. Indonesian research last year found more than 400,000 children regularly smoke.
The Indonesian government has also been accused of watering down legislation due to come into force next year which is designed to limit advertising and ban sponsorship of music and sporting events.
Amanda Sandford, research manager for Action on Smoking and Health, said: “For decades the tobacco industry has used sponsorship to promote its brands to impressionable young people. Most countries have now banned this and in response, the industry has focused on exploiting the lack of regulation in countries like Indonesia.
“The fact that musicians and entertainers are willing to take Big Tobacco’s money adds to the problem.We call on all entertainers to make a public commitment not to accept tobacco money and to withdraw from any existing contracts.”
The British singers do not have a direct deal with Djarum, which is part of a conglomerate owned by two of Indonesia’s richest men and the most prominent of a number of corporate sponsors of the three-day festival starting on Friday.
But critics argue that the stars are nonetheless perpetuating the promotion of cigarettes using methods long-since banned elsewhere. The Marlboro Man is still to be found on Indonesian billboards climbing mountains while young women in branded outfits are often to be found at corporate events handing out free samples.
A spokesman for US-based campaign group Tobacco Free Kids said: “There aren’t many consequences for international artists that accept tobacco industry sponsorship in Indonesia. Most of the world isn’t aware that this is happening in Indonesia.”
Cigarette sponsorship has been removed from two recent concerts by prominent American performers. Advertising by Djarum for a Kelly Clarkson concert in 2010 was pulled after protests by fans and anti-tobacco groups while Grammy-winner Alicia Keys demanded that sponsorship of one of her concerts in 2008 by another company be removed.
David accused campaigners of applying unfair pressure on entertainers, saying he promoted a healthy lifestyle through one of his companies.
A spokesman said: “We believe that allowing the advertisement of tobacco is an issue for the government of Indonesia to deal with via legislation.
“Craig is very much looking forward to entertaining his fans at Java... and believes that they are able to make their own decisions when it comes to this issue.”
Representatives of Lisa Stansfield declined to comment and publicists for Joss Stone did not respond to requests for comment. Djarum, whose charitable foundation runs Indonesia’s biggest badminton club, did not respond to a request for comment .