After the first week of our studio in Banjarmasin, I was still trying to understand the attitudes and behaviours tied to smoking, especially among the youth. Dylan Albrecht and I conducted an interview with Dina Ferdiana, a 2nd year university student studying primary school education. We conversed with her about her personal experiences and opinion of smoking, and how actions might be taken to combat it.
Dina was well educated on the toxic effects of tobacco consumption, referring to a local anti-smoking TV ad where a laryngectomy patient was recounting her experience of smoking and cancer. This may have been the same campaign Vital Strategies launched, as the ad was screened across Indonesia and other countries. She also stated that most Indonesians were also well aware of the harmful impact of smoking, for themselves and those around them. There are no smokers in her household, but she talked about the prevalence of youth smoking as many boys from her high school started smoking when they were fifteen. She attributes this to peer pressure, stating that friends would try them together and this would become a habit due to the “good taste”. (Ferdiana, pers. comm., 2018) A report on youth smoking in Java also attributes the prevalence of youth smoking to cigarettes being part of social interaction and events; conveying cultural ideals of masculinity as male elders smoke and a sense of camaraderie is created. (Ng et al, 2007)
This correlates with other interviews my group conducted for our billboard project, where interviewees who had tried cigarettes did so in social settings. However, many of them did not like the flavour and sensation of smoking, and joined the burgeoning anti-smoking movement in Banjarmasin. Dina also commented that the number of smokers is declining, suggesting that the growing anti-smoking sentiment across Indonesia is making an impact. When asked how this change might be improved and expanded, she spoke about the government’s need and responsibility to regulate tobacco advertising and sales for the health of the country – smokers, non-smokers and especially children. (Ferdiana, pers. comm., 2018)
Considering the complexity of the tobacco industry and its network of consumers, producers, and suppliers, government control is certainly part of the solution but also the problem. (Astuti et al, 2017) The economic interdependencies that tobacco companies exploit and thrive on, such as making up the majority of sales for independent vendors and being the biggest source of revenue and jobs for the country, makes it a difficult issue to navigate and tackle. (Danardono et al, 2009)
Astuti, P. A. S. Freeman, B., 2017, “It is merely a paper tiger” Battle for increased tobacco advertising regulation in Indonesia: content analysis of news articles’, BMJ Open, vol.7, no. 9.
Danardono, M., Nitcher, M., Ng, N., Padmawati, S. & Prabandari, Y., 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisments in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol.18, no. 2, pp 98.
Ng, N., Öhman, A. Weinehall, L. 2007, “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. 794-804.