POST A: The Parameters Of Tobacco Promotion And Demotion, And The Ethics Of Change. 

Designers provide an ability to contribute positively, negatively or as an agent for change within any context. The parameters influencing them are society, culture and government. A thorough understanding of the stakeholders, product/service and end-user produces effective design solutions that in-turn influence the final outcomes success. Across the world, everything related to tobacco, wether it be the cigarette, packaging or paraphernalia, has been influenced by a designer and Indonesia is no exception to this, actually what they have achieved is rather exceptional.

It would be unjust to hand all the credit to designers. Whilst they play a key role, tobacco’s success to such a high degree is only made possible due to its deeply rooted interdependence in Indonesias socio-cultural, political and economic framework. In order to be an ethical designer, once must consider the determinants that influence tobaccos high prevalence. For Indonesian men, smoking is viewed as a signifier of masculinity (Nawi, 2007), whereas for women, they are a symbol of the new feminist movement (WHO 2012). If one wanted to promote change via methods of design activism, one would understand that to radically eradicate tobacco in Indonesia would be financially devastating to many, a futile solution. The tobacco industry is “a major source of tax revenue for the Indonesian Government” (World Bank, 2001). Although the costs of smoking attributable healthcare expenditures are forecast to cost Indonesia trillions by 2030 (Djutaharta, T. & Vijaya, S., 2003), Tobacco companies within Indonesia provide copious grants and opportunities that far outweigh this. This is evident with examples like Sampoerna University, a University named after a Phillip Morris’ kretek subsidiary cigarette brand. It is widely known that the university offers grants of up to $41,000 US for their top performing students, in addition to various entry-scholarships (The Jakarta Post, 2018).

Figure 1- A pack of flavoured Esse cigarettes. With minimal warnings, the bright and colourful packaging and the product itself, it is evidently designed to target young women.
Marlboro Filter Black indonesia Cigarettes front image
Figure 2 – A pack of Marlborough blacks, this brand has strong associations with masculinity.

These practices of promoting cigarettes is in stark contrast to Australia, with a large focus on anti-smoking promotions and campaigns of prevention. In 2006, plain-packaging and graphic warnings in Australia for instance, was a design method implemented for the purpose of the anti-tobacco initiative (The Department of Health, 2018). In Indonesia, the design tactics being used to promote cigarettes and tobacco are transparent.  Whereas in Australia design tactics are bing used to render cigarettes and tobacco as unappealing.

Figure 3 – The evolution of anti-tobacco design tactics with regards to packaging within Australia.


Ng, N., Prabandari, Y., Padmawati, R., Okah, F., Haddock, C., Nichter, M., Nichter, M., Muramoto, M., Poston, W., Pyle, S., Mahardinata, N. and Lando, H. 2007, ‘Physician assessment of patient smoking in Indonesia: a public health priority’, Tobacco Control, vol 16, no 3, pp.190-196.

World Health Organization 2012, Tobacco Control in Indonesia, viewed 8 December 2018, <;.

Djutaharta, T. & Vijaya, S., 2003, ‘Research on tobacco in Indonesia: an annotated bibliography and review on tobacco use, health effects, economics and control efforts’, HNAP Discussion Paper: Economics of Tobacco Control, No. 10, pp. 1-66.

Indonesia-Investment 2018, Cigarette & Tobacco Industry Indonesia: Rising Pressures in 2018?, viewed 21 December 2018, <>

The Department of Health 2018, Smoking Prevalence Rates, viewed 21 December 2018<>

Figure 1, cigarettes online store, viewed 21 December 2018, <> 

Figure 2, The Skeptical Cardiologist, viewed 21 December 2018, <>

Figure 3, Clove cigarettes online, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

POST C: Pride, Prejudice And Tobaccos New Target

Figure 1 – A local Surabayan woman walking through the Arab District.

In Indonesia, 67.4% of males and 4.5% of females partake in the habit of tobacco smoking (WHO, 2018). Despite it costing billions in healthcare and a growing awareness of the negative effects of both active and passive smoke inhalation, there appears to be little change or incentive in the populace quitting and the amount of new smokers taking up the habit. Reasons for this lack of change are best explored by analysing the public advertising and marketing of tobacco, religious beliefs, sociology and gender.

The act of smoking amongst Indonesian males is viewed as a signifier of masculinity and a way to increase their social status (Nawi, 2007), this has been the zeitgeist since its inception into their culture. Because of this long-term and widely held sentiment, the male market for tobacco in Indonesia has reached a saturation point. However, existing today is a rapidly increasing rate of smoking among Indonesian women (Ng et al. 2007). As Indonesia is experiencing a new wave of feminism, tobacco companies are targeting young women by promoting cigarettes as “torches of freedom” (WHO, 2012), marketing them to be synonymous with defiance and independence. For these women, their choice in wether or not to smoke poses a series of conflicts between personal desires as well as social and religious expectations (Pampel, 2006). The experiences of those desires, pressures and expectations are represented though the perspective of my interviewee Nyssa Putri.

Speaking with the twenty one year old, Surabayan, graphic design student — Nyssa expressed that smoking for women in Indonesia is considered by many as “lower-class and for sex-workers” (2018) with a particular emphasis on the word “taboo” (2018). She expanded on this phrase citing that education of the health risks related to tobacco (especially for females) is “taboo” (2018) and consequently “not talked about” (2018). Despite Nyssa being a well-educated female, she actively partakes in smoking. When asked why she simply smiled, showed off a few of her tattoos and stated “I am a modern Indonesian, I enjoy smoking to relieve the stress of my studies, a lot of us here (at ITS) do” (2018). Her eyes gleamed as she affectionately described how she and her friends like to build towers in the ashtray on the balcony of her home where they would study together.

Tobacco advertising in Indonesia is largely aspirational and subliminally engrained within sponsorships of many youth events. In conjunction to their tactics of marketing and associating themselves with desirable lifestyles, the branding of many new cigarettes target young women. This is achieved through more ‘feminine’ – flavoured cigarettes and colourful packaging. For our interview, Nyssa kindly brought a series ‘Esse’ cigarettes among them were her favourites ‘Honey Pop’ and ‘Berry Pop’. She laid them out on the table, describing the satisfaction of “breaking the ball” and “inhaling the flavour” (2018).

Figure 1 – A packet of ‘Berry Pop’ Esse cigarettes

Regardless of the conflicting messages within Indonesian culture toward women smoking, Nyssa seems to possess all the qualities that Tobacco companies would want their consumer to have. She is a “modern Indonesian” (2018), adopting a more ‘westernised’ lifestyle, is defiant toward the patriarchy and eager to practice her acts of defiance by being, as she says, “one of the boys” (2018). In summary, our conversation provided valuable insight into the perception of cigarettes and the identity it promotes for women. This proved valuable with regards to the conceptualisation of my teams solution, one that possessed a heavy focus on facilitating a positive identity with non-smoking.


World Health Organization 2018, Tobacco Control in Indonesia, viewed 8 December 2018 <>.

Ng, N., Prabandari, Y., Padmawati, R., Okah, F., Haddock, C., Nichter, M., Nichter, M., Muramoto, M., Poston, W., Pyle, S., Mahardinata, N. and Lando, H. 2007, ‘Physician assessment of patient smoking in Indonesia: a public health priority’, Tobacco Control, vol 16, no 3, pp.190-196.

World Health Organization 2012, Tobacco Control in Indonesia, viewed 8 December 2018, <>.

Fred C. Pampel 2006, Gobal Patterns and Determinants of Sex Differences in Smoking, viewed 21 December 2018 <>

Figure 1, Image captured by Maddison Rutter-Malley (2018).

Figure 2, Figure 1, cigarettes online store, viewed 21 December 2018, <> 

Society and Religion vs. Female Freedom (Post C)

For young women in Indonesian society, the journey through adolescence to adulthood is a time of conflict between personal desires, religious expectations and social beliefs (Pampel 2006). When looked at closely, the shared beliefs and desires in Indonesia propose opposing views, creating internal battles, particularly for young women, as they grow into their independence and thus are faced with more decisions. These conflicts can be broken down by individually understanding the nation wide Muslim beliefs, the societal expectations, the public advertising, particularly that related to tobacco, and the individual desires of young women, represented through the thoughts and feelings expressed by interviewee, Alya Nadira.

112037_gettyimages527595467.jpg(Indonesia woman smoking – Ozy, 2017)

When speaking to 21 year old ITS student, Alya, she shared the conflicts she has faced in what she claims to be a “sexist” and “judgemental culture” (2018). Although she believes in her Muslim religion and admits to praying, the young woman says she doesn’t wear the vale and participates in haram acts such as drinking and occasionally smoking. When asked why, she states “I am a young person I just want to live freely, but it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in god” (2018). The act of a young Indonesian woman smoking is viewed as taboo and those that choose to are judged and seen in the public eye as a “bad girl”. However this judgement does not exist for male smokers, with approximately 76% of the male Indonesian population smoking (The World Bank 2016).


(Malbaro campaign advertisement, Quit Big Tobacoo, 2016)

Tobacco companies in Indonesia promote an aspirational lifestyle, using images of outdoors adventures and adrenalin sports to share with the public that being a part of the smoking culture will bring freedom and adventure, targeting teenagers and young adults (Quit Big Tobacoo, 2016). This message saturates most physical and digital spaces in Indonesia, telling the public that they can obtain this life of freedom, and yet this idea of freedom seems unattainable for women, for if they do choose to smoke and follow the path of “freedom”, they are judged for it. Although the advertisements are a tactic to fuel consumerism, the fact that public advertising and the shared belief that smoking allows for an adventurous and free life, conflicts with society’s expectations of women, suggesting this goal is unavailable for them.


Within the Indonesian culture, there appears to be a double standard whereby smoking is admitted to be haram for young women, yet is completely acceptable for young men. When asked about her person desires, Alya expressed a want to “be free” from the “oppressive Indonesian culture and religion” (2018). When speaking of her future, the young woman said she would rather enjoy her years as a young adult, exercise her freedom and as an independent person even if that means sacrificing parts of her religion. “I want to act for myself” she stated, but “I need to get a place in heaven… I might change when I get older” (2018).


Fred C. Pampel 2006, Gobal Patterns and Determinants of Sex Differences in Smoking, viewed 19 December 2018, <>

The World Bank 2017, Smoking prevalence males (%of adults), viewed 19 December 2018,

Quit Big Tobaco 2016, Big advertising, viewed 19 December 2018,<;

Interviewee: Alya Nadira, 2018.

Screen Shot 2018-12-24 at 11.03.49 pm.png




Blog Post A: Design and a question of morals

The ethical role designers have in any industry can have impacts that affect entire societies. This can be seen in the tobacco industry within Indonesia and the gambling industry within Australia. The way these products are marketed is designed, by a designer. This designer has taken on the role of creating an effective campaign to advertise a product that may not necessarily have ethical intentions.

The tobacco industry has an immense presence in Indonesia “[becoming] a ‘natural’ part of the Indonesian landscape” (Reynolds, C 1999). The cigarette packets in Indonesia have a range of different aesthetic styles to cater to different target audiences. This was discovered when talking to students from ITS University who reported that some tobacco companies market their products towards teenagers with brightly coloured packaging and flavoured cigarettes, a big offender of this is Esse Cigarettes.


Additionally, advertising campaigns promote smoking addictions through personal image created through graphical design. Strong messages such as “Never Quit” by Surya communicate strong messages with clear intentions, it is at this point that we have to ask ourselves as designers; are we crossing ethical boundaries. –


While it is easy to criticise the Indonesian tobacco industry for its tobacco marketing campaigns, related issues exist all over the world, even in our home country Australia. During October 2018, advertising for The Everest Cup horse racing was projected onto one of Australia’s greatest landmarks. Huge protests were created to stop the illumination of the Opera House sails with gambling advertising. Prior to this, the sails had only been projected onto for special occasions. Australia already has a problem with gambling, and the promotion of gambling contributes to the ever-growing problem. “Australia shows that 63% to 82% of teenagers gamble each year” (Monaghan, C et al. 2008). Behind these advertisements there is a designer at work with the intentions of selling a potentially harmful product at the cost of others. There is a power behind design to influence behaviours and it is with responsibility that these skills should be used to good effect. The question is left, where should the line be drawn to where design can be applied to sell or market an industry? For the tobacco industry in Indonesia that powers a huge part of their economy, should this be allowed to continue to allow for jobs to flourish or should counter measures be taken to drastically reduce the numbers of child smokers? This is a decision that can only be made by the designer and their ethical responsibilities.


Reynolds, C, 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

Monaghan, S., Derevensky, J., Sklar, A, 2008, ‘Impact of gambling advertisements and marketing on children and adolescents: Policy recommendations to minimise harm’, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

Image 1: Alex Lee, KT&Gs overseas sales hit all-time high, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

Image 2: Anton Jøsef, Gudang Garam | Surya Pro, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

Post A: Ethical Designers

Designers have the ability to both contribute positively or negatively to a community as long as society, culture and government permits. Everything tobacco related has had some form of influence from a designer; be it packaging, manufacturing, distribution and everything down to the cigarette itself. Indonesia’s case is no different, designers play a large role in the successes of tobacco, however, this is only possible due to tobaccos deeply ingrained economic, political and cultural roots in the country.

To be an ethical designer in Indonesia’s case is to understand these roots before attempting to design for these clients. The designer must understand the social and cultural differences without prejudice to create a system or product which would effectively suit the client and their needs.

Understanding the tobacco epidemic in Indonesia means to delve deeper than surface level information like habits and social aspects of smoking, but into the more political and economically involved areas of it. For example, to eradicate tobacco and tobacco use in the country would be devastating to the workers of the industry. A Sampoerna employee claimed that working 4 days a week at a cigarette rolling factory would be enough for the worker to put their child through school and university. Meanwhile, the government also aims to raise import duties for tobacco, which “aims at enhancing the welfare of Indonesian tobacco farmers as chances grow that their output will be absorbed domestically at higher prices”. (Indonesia-Investment 2018), Government involvement and revenue associated with the tobacco industry in Indonesia is just one aspect that a designer must consider before attempting to design ethically.


Figure 1 shows of a pack Marlboro cigarettes. With minimal graphic warnings, the bright red packaging and embossed branding is designed to appeal to a variety of audiences. The brand is known for having associations to masculinity, especially in its initial stages where the Marlboro commercials featured a strong and empowering “Marlboro cowboy man”.

Tobacco in Australia however, although still somewhat prominent, has government involvement in the opposing direction and has a more tobacco prevention intent. Since 1990, prevention methods enforced by the government alongside not-for-profit organisiations have seen large a reduction in smoking. One tobacco control method which has had influence from a designer is the graphic warnings applied to a plain packaging on tobacco products implemented in 2006. (The Department of Health 2018) Unlike the colourful and often misleading packaging and advertisements present in Indonesia, a designer would have been an agent for change in developing plain packaging to make cigarettes less appealing to the Australian populous.


Indonesia-Investment 2018, Cigarette & Tobacco Industry Indonesia: Rising Pressures in 2018?, viewed 21 December 2018, <>

The Department of Health 2018, Smoking Prevalence Rates, viewed 21 December 2018, <>

Figure 1

Chen, J. 2018, Marlboro Cigarette Packaging

C. Effectiveness of anti-smoking measures

Indonesia is one of the five topmost producers and exporters of cigarettes in the world  (WHO, 2012). It is also the fourth-largest cigarette consuming country. So in what ways have they attempted to enforce anti-smoking measures and how effective have these measures been? How have they actually influenced the smoking epidemic in Indonesia.

I interviewed my cousin, Andrew, 32, who has been smoking for the past 17 years. Initially influenced by friends at the young age of 12, he did not like the initial effects it gave him, such as coughing and dizziness. It was at 15 when the addiction started, it was seen as cool and he dangerously thought he could quit at anytime if he wanted to, and shortly learnt that wasn’t the case. Children and teenagers learn about the health effects of smoking in school, however with so many people in their daily environments smoking, it makes them curious and difficult to take the issue seriously. In Indonesia, 51.3% (14.6 million) adults are exposed to tobacco smoke in the workplace and 78.4% (133.3 million) are exposed to tobacco smoke at home (WHO, 2012).

I wanted to investigate the effectiveness of anti-smoking measures that have been made in Indonesia and what people think would actually be effective. Andrew mentioned that the change of plain packaging to graphic images was more of a nuisance than effective. When he first saw the graphic images it did make him think of wanting to quit but instead he would just look for a packet that was plain instead. This reveals that graphic packaging may inform people of the extreme effects of smoking but doesn’t necessarily make them want to quit.

When smoking in public places such as malls were banned, he did smoke less, but it didn’t stop him completely. Even with new laws people tend to ignore the consequences because they know that no-one will truly enforce it upon them, and if they do they will move on to another place where it is allowed. Anti-smoking measures are not likely to move forward in Indonesia until the government strengthens existing laws and develops protocols for enforcing these laws. (Aditama, 2008)

Rather than quitting, Andrew has started smoking a ‘lighter’ brand, Esse, that promotes with descriptive deceptors that since it is ‘light’ it is not as bad as normal cigarettes.  In Indonesia, the labelling restriction has actually reduced the proportion of smokers who agree that ‘light cigarettes are less harmful’ (Henriksen, 2012). Indonesia is still a long way away from solving the tobacco epidemic and should strongly consider work with the World Health Organisation framework on Tobacco Control.



  • World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia. (‎2012)‎. Global adult tobacco survey: Indonesia report 2011. WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia. 2012.
  • Wilson, L, et al. “Impact of Tobacco Control Interventions on Smoking Initiation, Cessation, and Prevalence: A Systematic Review,” Journal of Environmental and Public Health, vol. 2012, Article ID 961724, 36 pages, 2012.
  • Aditama, T, et al. Linking Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) Data to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: The Case for Indonesia, Volume 47, Supplement 1, September 2008, Pages S11-S14
  • Henriksen L, Comprehensive tobacco marketing restrictions: promotion, packaging, price and place, Tobacco Control 2012; 21:147-153.


POST C: Riyadh

While in Surabaya we interviewed and spoke to many people, from students to drivers, gathering a range of perspectives to better understand the issue from the ground. These interviews revealed the various nuances that surround the issue. Riyadh, a retail employee working in a high-end chocolate delicatessen, is one of these people that reflected a different attitude to most of the students and individuals I met in Surabaya. Riyadh recently moved from South Sumatra to find work to support himself and family. South Sumatra is known for the low-income levels and the high unemployment rate, with many farming areas within the region (Lisanty & Tokuda 2015). Riyadh says his parents own/run a farm and also a separate local warung nearby. Research into farming in regional Indonesia reveals that the average household total income, from off-farm and on-farm (other than paddy farming), was IDR 3,569,635 a year, which is a daily income of less than $1 (AUD) a day (Suryahadi & Hadiwidjaja 2011). He notes that he was more well off compared to others in the region as he was able to attend school and they had a moderate house closer to the town area. Riyadh says that it is because of his education that he was able to move to Surabaya and have a job, although stating it has been difficult, as he didn’t have a job for a long period of time.

Riyadh is an employee at a chocolate delicatessen. As he packed the pralines that I was buying, he began talking to me and offered his unique lens on the tobacco industry, growing up in a rural town in South Sumatra.

Riyadh’s experiences challenged my preconceived ideas about smoking levels in rural Indonesia. He notes that although many farmers and people in his area choose to smoke, his family does not. His father has always been strict on this and his reasoning for forbidding it upon him was very closely tied to the cost of smoking, and his father always refused the ‘smoking lifestyle’ as he deemed it as ‘unaffordable and unnecessary use of money’.

Studies reveal that on average 72.9% of rural families in Indonesia smoke, with paternal smoking associated with greater household food insecurity (Semba et al. 2011). Riyadh’s father’s choice not to smoke is something that he regards his father highly for, as he is aware of the positive impacts it has had on his life. He reflects on how some of his friends back in South Sumatra, are still living a low quality of life and how he sees himself as fortunate to be able to afford to live in Surabaya. Riyadh reflects hope for the youth of Indonesia, being understanding of the negative impacts of tobacco and unafraid of being called ‘less of a man’ due to his choice not to smoke, ‘I don’t believe in those things. It doesn’t make sense to me that [a] cigarette means you are one thing or not’. Riyadh is one of the few people who I’ve met in Indonesia who is actively aware of the manipulative tactics of tobacco companies, which I think is reflective of the values he was brought up with. He believes that there is more opportunity in the city of Surabaya for him, although being unsure about where he will do next after his retail job.

Reference List:

Lisanty, N., & Tokuda, H. (2015). Comprehending Poverty in Rural Indonesia: An In-depth Look inside Paddy Farmer Household in Marginal Land Area of Banyuasin District, South Sumatra Province. International Journal of Social Science Studies, 3(3), 129-137.

Semba, R.D., M.D., Campbell, A.A., B.S.1, Sun, K., M.S., de Pee, S., PhD, Akhter, N., M.S., Moench-Pfanner, R., Rah, J.H., PhD., Badham, J., M.Sc, Kraemer, K., PhD. & Bloem, M.W., M.D. 2011, “Paternal smoking is associated with greater food insecurity among poor families in rural Indonesia”, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 618-23.

Suryahadi, A., & Hadiwidjaja, G. (2011). The role of agriculture in poverty reduction in Indonesia. Jakarta: SMERU Research Institute.