An interview with Risky Amanda Yogaswara (who goes by Yoga).
In a lush, tree lined city, constructed amidst bustling rivers, who’s citizens can be seen donning tracksuits for early morning runs in the tropical heat, a habit that damages the health of the city and its citizenry stands out like a bule. I went into the conversation with Yoga (21) at the Universitas Lambung Mangkurat hoping to understand what inspired Banjarmasin youth to smoke, and came out with a story of a young man struggling to carve out his own identity in a city with strong traditions and laws.
Yoga moved to Banjarmasin when he was 4 because his father found pharmacy work in the city and has a younger sister aged 17 also wants to pursue pharmacy. He chose instead to do natural studies (similar to biology with a strong focus on the Kalimantan area), inspired by family holidays where he would experience Borneo’s rich biodiversity as a child. Yoga told me he wants to be able to preserve this for future generations, which is becoming a big challenge.
I enquired more about Yoga’s travels, curious about whether he had ventured outside of Kalimantan and experienced areas with a different ethnic, religious and cultural fabric. We bonded over Chiang Rai, a city in northern Thailand where he had worked for one month teaching English to local students. In a happy coincidence, I found out that his experience in Chiang Mai overlapped the topic I was trying to understand; what encourages Banjaramsin youth to smoke, and also what inspires them to quit.
Upon arriving in Chaing Rai, Yoga was shocked at the price of cigarettes and at five times more expensive than in Banjaramsin, he told himself he would reduce how much he smoked in Thailand. The greater inspiration came when he met a girl in Chiang Rai. “She was so nice” Yoga told me “ and she didn’t like me smoking so I chose to stop doing it”. The process was difficult but Yoga used financial pressure to reinforce his emotional reasons for quitting. His path to quitting involved two months vaping, which allowed him to reduce and regulate his nicotine intake. Being much more expensive than cigarettes, he could not sustain it for long and eventually stopped completely, a common path for young people around the world choosing to stop smoking (Beard et al 2016, Rieder 1998).
Along with being an emotional awakening, Chiang Rai was also a chance to test Yoga own religious boundaries. He tried his first beer over there and went out to nightclubs. Asking if he enjoyed it he flashed me a guilty smile, “Yes”. “I was scared to tell my mother, but when I did she wasn’t angry. She just told me not to do it again. I don’t think I will.”
Our conversation inevitably faded away after students began offering us local sweets but as we took our final photo together, I felt humbled to have had such an honest encounter with Yoga.
Beard, E., West., R. 2016, ‘Association between electronic cigarette use and changes in quit attempts, success of quit attempts, use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, and use of stop smoking services in England: time series analysis of population trends’, British Medical Journal, vol. 354.
Rieder, M. 1998, ‘Effect of changes in the price of cigarettes on the rate of adolescent smoking’, Paediatrics & Child Health, vol. 3, pp. 97-100.
The Conversation 2014, Palm oil continues to destroy Indonesian wildlife, The Conversation, viewed 20 January 2017, <https://theconversation.com/palm-oil-continues-to-destroy-indonesias-wildlife-31831>.