“Its so cheap (to buy cigarettes), its like buying candy and its everywhere either advertised or sold.” (Fatiana, 2018)

Tobacco advertising in Indonesia is extremely aggressive and innovative, and tobacco advertisements saturate the environment. Tobacco companies are politically and financially powerful in the country because they are one of the largest sources of government revenue. As a result, there are few restrictions on tobacco marketing and advertising. National surveys reveal that 65% of Indonesians are smokers. Smoking is firmly embedded into everyday life, and is perceived by many to make up historically the social and cultural fabric of Indonesia. The tobacco industry reads, reproduces and works with culture as a means of selling cigarettes. This is all achieved in the guise of the tobacco companies as ‘supporters of Indonesian national identity’.

Ampihi Mangaramput! 3 copy

Statistic shown during the Vital Strategies presentation about the rise in youth smoking over the last 4 years. It is a major concern that they are working to reduce. (Image: Vital Strategies. 2018.)

I interviewed Rayda Nurlies Fatiana (21), a local university student, hoping to understand further and gain an insight into there home town of Banjarmasin, why it is that smoking is a rising issues especially among the youth to hopefully provide a window more broadly into the social paradigms of Indonesia.

Rayda is part of a youth organisation that conducts projects that aim to inform youth of the wicked implications of tobacco. They aim to promote health and positive change throughout her city. When I asked who the tobacco company target, she responded in a mater of fact tone ‘the youth’. She further explained that it wasn’t just with posters on main streets and in residential areas or posters out the front of school yards but their marketing ran deeper; “they run music concerts with international musicians playing! It was hard even for me to resist.” (Fatiana, 2018)


Statistics produced by CNI documenting the percentage of males over 15yrs smoking in the South-East Asia area.(CNI,2015)

Indonesia can best be described as an “advertiser’s paradise”, as it is a largely unrestricted regulatory environment. Cigarette marketing in Indonesia is among the most aggressive and innovative in the world. As Sampoerna noted in their annual report in 1995: “Indonesian companies have almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format and through any communications vehicle in the country”.(Sampoerna,1995) This statement is as true today as it was over a decade ago Rayda explains; “there is very little regulation. Companies still advertise outside schools.”(Fatiana, 2018)

Another prominent form of advertisement in Indonesia is the sponsorship by the industry of local and international jazz and rock concerts, cultural events, and sporting events such as Formula One and national and local basketball and soccer competitions. The tobacco industry offers numerous scholarships to attend colleges.


Concert advertisement poster for popular American singer Kelly Clarkson sponsored by tobacco brand ‘L.A. Lights’ (Java Musink Indonesia, 2010)

“its just sad to think that these big companies have so much power because they’re rich and they don’t have our (Indonesia) interests at heart.” (Fatiana, 2018)

For the young and impressionable youth they sell and aspirational image of what it is to be a man and not only that its so cheap, ‘its like buying candy.’ (Fatiana, 2018)a-mild-mula-mula-722x400

Billboard depicting a youthful, carefree ‘aspirational’ couple. ( L.A Lights, 2011)

As Rayda explained this and her hope for the new generation to different, to alter the generational values. However, with a culture  where tobacco is so strongly invested so deeply in the economic, social, and political fabric, the need for not for profit organisations like Vital Strategies who work as an independent unit become crucially clear.


Reference List:

Schewe, E. 2012, ‘Why Do So Many Indonesian Men Smoke?’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Vital Strategies. 2018, ‘Ampihi Mangaramput!’, PowerPoint presentation, viewed 08 January 2018

World Health Organisation. 2014, Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Indonesia, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Steinberg, L. & Monahan, K. C. 2007, Age differences in resistance to peer influence, Developmental Psychology, Vol 43(6), 1531-1543

Senthilingam, M. 2017, Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic, CNN, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Sohn, K. 2014, A note on the effects of education on youth smoking in a developing country, Vol. 19, Iss. 1, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Google images. 2018. Tobacco advertising.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

Google images. 2018. Tobacco advertising.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

Google images. 2018. Tobacco statistics.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

Google images. 2018. Tobacco concerts.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

2 thoughts on “POST C: SMOKING, AS ‘SWEET’ AS CANDY?

  1. When my group walked around Banjarmasin on our design audit, we too noticed the increase in tobacco advertising compared to Sydney. It could be found on items as big as billboards to objects as small as lighters. No wonder there has been an increase in youth smoking over the past four years as the temptation to do so is easily found in most areas of Banjarmasin. Your post was interesting to read and gain an understanding of what the Indonesian youth think of this as they are the ones who have grown up surrounded by it and live with it 24/7. I was saddened when Fatiana was talking about big companies having so much power because it is where all the money is, but do not pay attention to the interests of the Indonesian population. I think if there is money in this area, they need to focus on promoting the real heroes who are the non-smokers, as oppose to glamourising cigarettes.

  2. Fascinating to see Kelly Clarkson performing at a tennis event endorsed by LA Lights, neither tennis nor singing are aided by smoking. Only makes you imagine the obscene amounts of money these companies have, particularly in persuading a famous public figure with presumably good education in regards to the dangers of smoking to participate in such an event.

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