As soon as we entered Lambung Mangkurat University’s campus in Banjarmasin I instantly began to compare the differences between the serenity of the wetlands that dot the campus with start and serious nature of the UTS tower. It’s always exciting to explore another university campus and to discover the varying ways in which a sense of community is forged alongside studying a degree, except this this experience was different, being in Banjarmasin a city with which I was both unfamiliar and embarrassingly bad at communicating with people.
It was here that I met Haitami, a Business Management student at Lambung Mangkurat University and was initially quiet but opened up about his life and ideas about the cigarette industry during our conversation. Haitami is originally from a small village some five hours away from Banjarmasin named Jamil (meaning ‘beautiful’), but rather than try to make the impossible happen and travel every day, he lives about a 20 minute walk from campus during semester. Haitami’s dedication to his studies is obvious, whilst he already attends classes five days a week he is a part of various university clubs whose meetings he attends on weekends. One of these endeavours includes being a part of AIESEC, with whom he was going to Thailand the following week to undertake a short-term volunteering trip.
During our conversation, Haitami was proud to announce that he himself was not a smoker, nor a fan of the smell it created and the negative impact on one’s health, having recently lost a brother-in-law to the effects of smoking. Still, he admitted that there is pressure to smoke in Indonesia, that it is expected of men to smoke (Hodal, 2012). He enjoyed telling me that the majority of the university campus was smoke-free, creating a more comfortable environment and the ability for non-smokers to be able to breather clean air, something which is often difficult to achieve in Banjarmasin.
Nonetheless, as our conversation continued I was surprised to learn more about Haitami’s perception of the importance of tobacco companies in a variety of aspects of life in Indonesia, including their sponsorship of music festivals, sports games and providing university scholarships to students from low socio-economic areas (Tobacco Free Kids, 2013). I began to realise that Haitami, alongside other Indonesians perceive the tobacco industry as playing an integral role across many aspects life in Indonesia, even expecting it due to the wide influence they wield and their deep pockets. I found this realisation to be particularly surprising, especially in trying to understand the paradox of an anti-smoking stance with a support of the tobacco industry.
Throughout the time I spent talking with Haitami, I became more aware of some of the nuances that make up the wicked problem that smoking is in Indonesia. Whilst much of our time in Banjarmasin we looked at the issue of the cigarette itself, the influence of tobacco companies across other aspects of Indonesian life remains a complex web of issues that will take a long period of time to unravel.
Myself and Haitami at Lambung Mangkurat University.
Daffi, R, 2012, ‘Taru Martani: A Story Of Cigars And Indonesia’. Latitudes, March 14, Viewed 20 January 2018, https://latitudes.nu/taru-martani-a-story-of-cigars-and-indonesia/
Hondal, K, 2012, ‘Indonesia’s smoking epidemic – an old problem getting younger’. The Guardian, 22 March, Viewed 20 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/22/indonesias-smoking-epidemic
Reynolds, C, 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’. Tobacco Control, Volume 8, page 85 – 88. http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/8/1/85.info
The Jakarta Post, 2013, ‘Your letters: Tobacco sponsorship of sporting events’. June 20, Viewed 20 January 2018, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/06/20/your-letters-tobacco-sponsorship-sporting-events.html
Tobacco Free Kids, 2013, Oh Really? Tobacco-Sponsored Indonesia Jazz Festival Now Claims It’s Opposed to Youth Smoking. Viewed 20 January 2018, https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/blog/2013_02_27_jazz