Banjarmasin is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with a captivating clash of old and new cultures. From its floating markets to its immense industrial shipping yards, it is very clear upon first observation that the city revolves around its rivers, which seemingly act as the veins of the land. Although Indonesia is home to many cities, with many different cultures within them, a common thread unites the nation – high rates of cigarette usage and addition. Banjarmasin is not exempt from this dark shadow that falls over the country.
Walking through the city of Banjarmasin, there is no escape from this fact: men smoke while they work, and conveniently located cigarette stalls and large billboard advertisements fill the streets. During my time in the city I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to visit Universitas Lambung Mangkurat, the oldest university in Kalimantan. There I met a student named Dina who studies Primary School Teacher Education. She is 20, and she enjoys her education, K-pop, and spending time with friends after university. I took the chance to understand more about the problem of tobacco in the area, and had an engaging conversation with Dina about young people’s involvement with smoking, and her own personal experience of this.
Dina, a 20-year-old student at Universitas Lambung Mangkurat.
Dina currently lives with her grandparents, as her parents live in a small village far from the city. Dina recounted the first time she was affected by smoking – at school. When some of the boys in her class began smoking, aged 15 years old, they would “leave the classroom and go out for a smoke, as they were not allowed to do it inside the class.” Hearing this was shocking, as not only did it reveal that kids as young as 15 were smoking, but that they were also missing out on their education. At that age teenagers are extremely susceptible to peer pressure (Steinberg & Monahan 2007) meaning others in the class would be at high risk for taking up smoking too. As discussed in a previous blog, Smoking Culture in Indonesia, there are a number of reasons why smoking is taken up by the youth in Indonesia, especially in males.
However, Universitas Lambung Mangkurat is a smoke free area and Dina (a non-smoker) is very aware of tobacco’s damaging effects on the body. She spoke about how she was taught in school about the dangers of smoking and described the confronting television advertisements that she has seen in Indonesia. Although it does not prevent all the students from smoking, Dina believes that less people are now smoking in Banjarmasin because the dangers of smoking are taught in school and at university. This presents a contrast to the rest of the country as the rate of smokers under 18 in Indonesia between 2013 and 2016 rose from 7.2% to 8.8% (Senthilingam 2017). This provides an interesting contrast to Dina’s personal perception that fewer people in Banjarmasin are smoking, and taking up smoking. One explanation for this might be that only the children who are receiving an education are aware of the dangers of smoking, so in Dina’s immediate circle of friends (who are all at university) it might seem like fewer people are smoking, when outside of Dina’s social circle, the opposite is true. Another explanation could be that the effects of tobacco are less important to Indonesians of lower income who focus more on working to survive, rather than aiming for a longer and healthier life. Regardless, it is evident that smoking is deeply interwoven in Indonesian culture, affecting countless victims – both first-hand and second-hand smokers. From my experience with Dina, is seems as if education is Indonesia’s path to a clear future.
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, <https://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/30/health/chain-smoking-children-tobacco-indonesia/index.html>
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, <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13547860.2013.803845>