A trip to Banjarmasin, Indonesia has shown me many interesting perspectives of the country I thought I knew. Fortunate with the opportunity to grow up in two contrasting countries, Australia and Indonesia, I have witnessed the difference of smoking culture and the attitudes surrounding “Rokok”.From living in Australia, where Rokok would be heavily criticised, coming to Indonesia and experiencing first hand the Rokok culture has been astonishing. Many young Indonesians in Banjarmasin still believe that smoking is a symbol of masculinity and bravery (Ng 2006). This belief is also true for Junaidi, my interviewee, from a young age.
(source: Nicholl 2017)
Junaidi is a 43 year old man who worked in Menara Pandang as a page during our stay in Banjarmasin. His stories revealed an insight different to what I’d have thought toward Rokok based on his own experiences. Junaidi admitted that he was a smoker, labelling himself as a casual smoker based on his financial instabilities and being wary of the long-term negative impacts of smoking which deterred him from falling to severe dependency and complete addiction. Junaidi confessed that one of the reasons why he picked up smoking in his high school years is because the act was perceived as a cool, brave thing to do. This emphasizes the idea of peer pressures alongside the false sense of self-image as a prevalent catalyst of smoking and its addiction in Indonesia. Junaidi, despite being aware of the consequences of smoking, continues to smoke occasionally. Junaidi said “Sudah terlanjur”, saying that the reason he continues is because he has already had a taste of the cigarette; the tobacco along with the bravado he believed came with it. He acknowledged that had it not been for his current financial situation, he would most likely consume more cigarettes and become dependent on them as many of the population has.
The supposed disadvantage of being unable to purchase as many cigarettes as he’d like has actually helped Junaidi in some areas. He mentioned that with his limited funds he could only buy cigarettes individually. The one stick may not satisfy his overall addiction however it allows him to work toward consuming less cigarettes, because he is forced to. This method gave me an insight to the different ways tobacco can be sold to accommodate the different lifestyles of the Indonesian population.
Junaidi, aware of the dangers of smoking, strongly advises his children not to smoke. His father was a smoker and he wished he had been taught the same thing. He believes that his children, as a new generation of young non-smokers, can pass the ideal onto the future generations, smoking addiction decreasing with each generation until it’s completely abolished. In spite of being a casual smoker himself, Junaidi is slowly carving a healthier future for his family and also others around him.
My interview with Junaidi was definitely an interesting and memorable.Through the interview, one can easily recognise the big impact of ‘Rokok’ culture in Indonesia that sellers can even accommodate low income people by selling it individually. Our small exchange convinced me that Indonesia’s Rokok culture can change for the better as it is slowly being recognised as bad.
Nawi Ng, Weinehall, L., Öhman, A. 2006., ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’ ,Health Education Research, vol. 22, no.6, pp. 795
Nicholl, A. 2017, Untitled, Slack, viewed 25 January 2018
Semba, R., Kalm, L., de Pee, S., Ricks, M. 2016, ‘Paternal smoking is associated with risk of child malnutrition among poor urban families in Indonesia’, Public Health Nutrition, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 10