Post D: Tobacco’s Fountain of Youth.

Surabaya is a growing city, a city of trade, varying culture & strong economy. Beneath the hustle & bustle of this booming city lies the tobacco issue, an issue that is so far embedded into Indonesian day to day culture that the stigma of ‘if you don’t smoke, it’s like you’re not Indonesian’ (Hodal, K. 2012) even exists. Tobacco companies control Indonesia with a tight grip, with its economic power being so strong a collapse in tobacco means a collapse for Indonesia. These companies are multi-billion dollar companies with no expenditure on advertising, promotion etc. being too much. They know their product is hooked & hooked so deep within the Indonesian people, there is little light for the future of public health in this beautiful country without strong intervention & prevention being funded by the government by aligning with the WHO framework. 

Throughout the past few days of exploring the city of Surabaya from a foreigners perspective, the problem does not just exist within the adult population as we experience in Australia. With over ’70% of men aged 20 & over’ (Hodal, K. 2012) smoking & the ‘average starting age falling from 19 a decade ago to just seven now’ (Hodal, K. 2012) the problem is becoming more & more of normalised & the bad habits of the adult population are influencing & rubbing off on the youth in rapid rates. 

Figure 1 and 2: Children playing in the Arab Quarter. (Burdfield, J. 2018)

These raised smoking rates in youth, spread all across Indonesia with rates of youth ‘aged 13 to 15 years showing that 37% has smoked cigarettes & 13.5% identifying as current smokers’. What even more alarmingly is that ’95.1% of Indonesian adolescents reported to never smoke expressed their intention to start smoking in the next 12 months’ (Tahlil, T., Woodman, R., Coveney, J. and Ward, P. 2013). 

With statistics like this, the need for the Indonesian government to intervene is critical. If the government were to begin to take more steps to regulate the sale of cigarettes, the opportunity for youth to illegally purchase cigarettes underage could dissipate. The sale of cigarettes is not only available fro supermarkets & convenience stores, but also local family businesses, warung & also street vendors. With a warung on every corner & street venders roaming up every small alley the sale is too easy & unfortunately the opportunity is there. With the sale of cigarettes being regulated, the age limit being enforced & more opportunity for education on the harmful effects, the youth of Indonesia could head towards a healthier & profitable future with ‘second-largest household expenditure after food’ (Hodal, K. 2012) being put towards a better alternative. 


Figure 3: My concept map exploring some connections I drew between tobacco and youth whilst on our Surabaya walking tour. (Burdfield, J. 2018)

Hodal, K. 2013, Indonesia’s smoking epidemic – an old problem getting younger, The Guardian, 22 March, <>.

Tahlil, T., Woodman, R., Coveney, J. and Ward, P. 2013, The impact of education programs on smoking prevention: a randomized controlled trial among 11 to 14 year olds in Aceh, Indonesia, BMC Public Health, viewed 7th December 2018, 

Nawi, Ng., Weinehall, L. and Ohman, A. 2007, ’If i don’t smoke, I’m not a real man – Indonesian boy’s views about smoking’, Health Education Research, Volume 22, Issue 1, viewed 7th December 2018,  <>.

D. Coffee Culture

Coffee Map 2
A map of Warung Kopi located near the House of Sampoerna

Indonesia is a major consumer and producer of tobacco, ranking third among countries globally (Achadi et al., 2005). With over 62% of Indonesian adult males smoking regularly (Achadi et al., 2005), I was interested to find out what practices created such high statistics. Through my limited yet immersive experience in Surabaya, Indonesia so far, I have noticed a vast array of practices associated around Tobacco consumption. One interesting association with the use of tobacco within Surabaya is how smoking is strongly tied to drinking coffee.

Coffee Pour

I was recently taken on a walking tour of Surabaya, where I was able to see how smoking is so ingrained within Indonesian culture, with communal cigarette cans being placed at all the local cafes. Within Surabaya Warung Kopis (coffee shops), customers are able to purchase their coffee as well as single cigarettes. Smoking has strong social ties within the community in Indonesia, where you can find individuals smoking more often with friends than alone (Smet et al., 1999).


This social tie can be seen not only in the street coffee shops, but also in the large malls such as Tunjungan Plaza, where majority of the coffee shops have smoking rooms out the back of the cafe. Giving individuals the ability to enjoy their coffee and cigarette with friends, while still in the comforts of the mall.

Smoking is a culturally internalised habit in Indonesia, with cigarettes being shared at celebratory events and festivals (Nawi et al., 2007). This social smoking culture is only enhanced with local cafe’s and restaurants feeling the pressures to remain a welcoming environment for smokers. Not only do the local cafes sell cigarettes as well as their own goods, but they also display large signs outside their shops of favourited cigarette brands in order to further entice clientele.

LA Taste

With cigarette smoking being shown to increase the consumption of coffee (Treur et al., 2016) one can see how Warung Kopis and Tobacco brands accompany one another to create a pleasant sensory experience. Although this business partnership is idealistic for economic growth, smoking practices not only effect the smokers themselves, but it also effects the passive, involuntary smokers who don’t choose to directly smoke, but are simply being impacted by their environment. From my experience in Surabaya so far, these individuals are the true victims of the Tobacco epidemic.


Treur, J. L., Taylor, A. E., Ware, J. J., McMahon, G., Hottenga, J. J., Baselmans, B. M., Willemsen, G., Boomsma, D. I., Munafò, M. R., … Vink, J. M. (2016). Associations between smoking and caffeine consumption in two European cohorts. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 111(6), 1059-68

Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall, A. Öhman; ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking, Health Education Research, Volume 22, Issue 6, 1 December 2007, Pages 794–804,, (Accessed 6 Dec. 2018)

Smet, B., Maes, L., De Clercq, L., Haryanti, K. and Winarno, R. (1999). Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia. Tobacco Control, [online] 8(2), pp.186-191. Available at:, (Accessed 5 Dec. 2018)

Achadi, A., Soerojo, W. and Barber, S. (2005). The relevance and prospects of advancing tobacco control in Indonesia. Health Policy, [online] 72(3), pp.333-349. Available at:, (Accessed 6 Dec. 2018)

POST D: The Gendered Nature of Tobacco

The Indonesian consumption of tobacco has been rapidly increasing over the years, with national survey data revealing that adult smoking prevalence is high, with 62% of males and approximately 1-3% of women smoking (Achadi et al. 2005).

The gendered nature of the tobacco industry is clearly evident as you walk through the streets of Surabaya and frames the social and cultural norms for women. It is traditionally considered culturally inappropriate for women to smoke. What I find particularly interesting is that smoking appears to be increasing among affluent and educated women in urban areas, such as Jakarta (Weinehall et al. 2006). Tobacco companies are capitalising on this by connecting smoking with symbols of woman empowerment and freedom. This tactic is reminiscent on the U.S, 1920’s  ‘Torches for Freedom’, when cigarette manufacturers turned smoking into a symbol of female liberation (Coca 2017). Indonesian culture is largely built on aspects of socialising which is built around tobacco culture. The gendered nature of tobacco dictates the way in which males dominate public spaces. On a local context, you can see many warongs filled with male patrons, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. This is reflective of Indonesian moral conducts where young women are not seen going anywhere alone and are not expected to engage in ‘free’ social mixing (Parker 2009; Smith Hefner 2009). On our guided walking tour we sat and enjoyed coffee amongst the locals at the warong, Warkop Sakam, advertised as being open 24/7. The guide, Anitha Silva, explained that “coffee and smoking go hand in hand.” It was clear that my presence as a female was uncommon, as there were no local females inside the warong. On our walk, I did not find any spaces for women to congregate and socialise in a group like men do inside a warong. This makes me question whether the use of tobacco-sponsored events, by providing safer spaces for females to socialise in public spaces, is reinforcing ideas in young women that they can buy freedom through tobacco?


Power structures of males over women are reinforced through tobacco as it dictates the use of public spaces, and Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, vice chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, says that the country faces a street harassment epidemic, making it unsafe for women to utilise street spaces to socialise in the way that men do (Today Online 2017). An exploration of the Sampoerna Museum uncovered and highlighted the power dynamics between genders in the tobacco industry. As one looks down at the workers from a glass wall, with ‘no photo/video’ signs displayed, you can see all the women at their tables working quickly and efficiently to roll, bundle and package the unfiltered premium cigarettes. It is seen as an acceptable job for a woman to work in the production of tobacco, yet deemed as socially unacceptable and harmful to consume it. The irony is that the effects of tobacco does not discriminate based on gender and has lasting ramifications for those that choose to smoke as well as those who are exposed to it.



The map above explores the way in which consumption of tobacco differs accross one region. Notably, I found that markets with more female vendors, such as Pabean Utara, had less tobacco than markets with male vendors (Pasar Ikan Pabean).


Reference List:

Achadi, A., Soerojo, W., Barber, S. 2005, ‘The relevance and prospects of advancing tobacco control in Indonesia’, Health Policy, viewed December 7 2018, <;

Coca, N. 2017, ‘Big Tobacco wants Indonesian Women to Light-up and Liberate’, Jakarta, viewed 7 December 2018, <;

Weinehall, L., Ohman, A., Ng, N. 2006, ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’–Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking, Health Educ Res, pp. 794–804.

Today Online 2017, In Indonesia, women begin to fight ‘epidemic’ of street harassment, Singapore, viewed December 7 2018, <;

Parker, L. 2009, “Religion, class and schooled sexuality among Minangkabau teenage girls”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 165(1): 62-94.

Smith-Hefner, N. 2009, “’Hypersexed’ youth and the new Muslim sexology in Java, Indonesia”, Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, pp. 209-244.

Post D: Tobacco culture in local contexts: Surabaya’s Arab Quarter


Once a central Dutch Indies port-town, Surabaya became a multi-ethnic melting pot as the promise of work attracted migrants from all over the world. This rich history can be seen today walking down the bustling side streets of the Ampel Arab quarter, a legacy of the Dutch enforced segregation of ethnicities into kampongs (neighbourhoods). Here, generations of Indonesian descendants live and work, with some still practicing the Arabic and Islamic traditions of their ancestors.



Image Above: A mapping of our route around the Arab quarter. It is read clockwise from the 9 o’clock position.

Starting our walk outside Sarkam Coffee shop at 87 Jalan Nyamplungan, men sit along benches drinking boiled coffee and chatting. Here cigarette smoke hangs heavy in the air and ashtrays dot wooden tables both inside and outside of the cafe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO 2008) 67.4% of men and 4.5% of women smoke, giving Indonesian men one of highest smoking rates of any country in the world. Their proclivity to smoking is not unique as this gender disparity exhibits itself indiscriminately across most countries in the world (WHO 2010).

As we move off the busy street and down a side alley (Jalan Ampel Kesumba Pasar) we are greeted with a sign; Dilarang. Parkir kendaraan. Duduk di pot bunga. Membuang sampah di pot bunga.  This translates to: Banned. Vehicle parking. Sitting in flower pots. Throwing trash in flower pots. These street rules signs can be found throughout the quarter where residents came together to enforce regulations to keep noise out, keep the streets tidy and and ensure a safe environment for their children. Little bins emptied regularly are dotted along the pathways, scooter drivers jump down and push their bikes as they make their way, and residents with cars must park a few blocks down and walk home.

These leafy side streets become short respites as we traversed through the quarter in the Surabayan humidity and heat. Cool breeze channelled through the rows of colonial terrace houses in the absence of heat that otherwise would have come from the bitumen and exhaust permeating the main streets.


Image above: In the main market hall vendor stalls are piled high with garlic, ginger, shallots and various other groceries.

As we passed through the markets we found for sale a variety of muslim clothing and accessories, perfumes, herbal ointments, religious texts, foods and spices. One thing you will not find so easily is alcohol, as drinking is considered by the majority Islamic population to be a socially and religiously deviant behaviour, a lot more so than smoking cigarettes (Smet et al. 1999: Taylor, 2009; The Jakarta Post, 2009). Waterpipes (shisha) are another form of tobacco smoking popular here (Waziak et al. 2013) and can be seen on sale in glass displays facing the street.

Re-entering the main street from the otherside there are rows of motorbikes in designated parking areas where parking wardens collect parking tolls and direct the parking. Becak drivers also hang around here, smoking and passing the time between customers. Taxi and bike drivers in particular have high smoking rates of around 85% (Kirana et al. 2014), and it’s considered polite for customers to give a driver uang rokok (cigarette money) if it’s anticipated that he will be left waiting a while.

It’s not hard to see how tobacco has become deeply embedded in everyday life for a lot of Indonesian men and their families. From acting as a social bond and lubricant, to a way of relieving boredom and stress.



Kirana, R., Dewi, V., Barkinah, T., Isnaniah & Rachmadi, A., 2014, ‘Warning Labels among Informal Workers in Surabaya City – East Java, Indonesia’, Advances in Life Science and Technology, vol. 21, pp. 10-16.

Maziak, W. et al. 2013, Tobacco in the Arab world: Old and New Epidemics Amidst Policy Paralysis, Health Policy Plan, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 784-94.

Smet, B., Maes, L., Clercq, L., Haryanti, K. & Winarno, R., 1999, ‘Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, pp. 186–191.

Taylor, K., 2009,  ‘Smoking still popular despite Ulema edict’, The Jakarta Post, Retrieved Retrieved 7 December 2018,  <>.

The Jakarta Post, 2009, ‘Islamic scholars challenge MUI edicts on smoking and yoga’, The Jakarta Post, Retrieved 7 December 2018, <>.

World Health Organization 2008, WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, The MPOWER package, WHO, Switzerland.

WHO, 2010, 10 Facts on Gender and Tobacco, World Health Organisation, Switzerland.


The Habit of Hard Work

Technicolour buildings bask in the warm orange glow of a dying day catching and exposing the smoke and smog of the Arab district. The smoke sits still in the air barely disturbed by the call to prayer which radiates from Sunan Ampel down into the small stalls and shops which adorn the fringes of bustling streets and alleys, each living in a perpetual cloud of tobacco. The culture of smoking within Indonesian society has permeated every facet of life for Surabaya’s 3 million citizens, from the home to the workplace smoking exists unchallenged with statistics suggesting “33% of the population (67.4% of men and 4.5% of women) as smokers”(2). One of the major trends I observed in these small clusters of consumption was the men occupying their stores consistently smoked cigarettes while conducting business as seen in figures 1 and 2. I interpreted this behaviour as an extension of the masculine perception smoking provides Indonesian men with studies reiterating “the use of tobacco as a masculinity signifier”(1). This notion enforced by the significant contrast between both statistical tobacco use as well as the tobacco use I observed.

Following this encounter, I continued through the main shopping arcade and upon returning to the streets I meet a group of men huddled around their Becaks smoking together while waiting for customers as seen in figures 3 and 4. This notion of smoking within work compounded within a social context perpetuated the masculine perception of smoking within Indonesia as cited by cigarettes being “used to create social bonds among peers, to maintain the group’s identity and to avoid exclusion by their peers”(1). The representation of smoking across Indonesian society as a social activity was highlighted as significantly more evident within the transport workers. An opinion held by the various researchers asserted that “motorcycle and taxi drivers, in particular, will fill the time waiting for customers by smoking and their cigarette consumption tends to be particularly high (85%).”(1). The cigarette in the context of transport providers connotes both a sense of comradery and an escape from the trials of their occupation.

Upon further investigation of the understanding of the cost of smoking both financially and physiologically was a notion poorly understood by those who participate in these occupations. This notion is supported by a study conducted specifically in regards to transport workers with the consensus reached being “those informal workers should be educated on the relevance of cigarette warning labels and how it can help them to live a healthy driving life.”(1). The economic impact of smoking particularly in regards to labour occupations such as transport with the onset of related diseases and breathing difficulties hampering the ability for transport workers to operate.

Map exercise

Reference List

  1. smoking behaviour and attitude towards cigarette warning labels among informal workers in Surabaya City – East Java, Indonesia. Kiranal, R. Dewi, V. Berkinah, T. Isnaniah, viewed 6th of December 2018
  2. World Health Organization [WHO], Tobacco Control in Indonesia, WHO, Geneva, viewed 4th of December 2018, <>.

Post B: Community enforcement proves more effective than government legislation in the Arab district of Surabaya.

Authored, photographed and illustrated by: Maddison Rutter-Malley

Conurbations of east Java merge into a conglomerate metropolis, thickly veiled with the yellow fumes emitted from car exhausts and tobacco leaves.

According to WHO, tobacco related illness is ranked among the top three in the world for both developed and under-developed countries, with a mortality rate predicted to reach 8.4 million in 2020 (Twombly, 2002). Tobacco inhalation is a leading cause of death with particular relation to non-communicable disease across the globe (H Van Minh, et al, 2006). Ranking as the 3rd highest smoker per capita in the world, it has been officially classed as an epidemic within Indonesia. With an approximation of 33% of the total population (67.4% of men and 4.5% of women) being smokers (World Health Organization, 2018).

Indonesia is a vast archipelago of contrasting cultures. Many of those cultures, especially within big cities like Surabaya, are densely situated. Regardless of opposing religious and lifestyle views, many Indonesians employ tobacco use as an intrinsic part of their day-to-day lives. Regardless that there have been a set of laws implemented into the creation of ‘safe-zones’ for smoke inhalation, these rules are often ignored. A study of the health intervention strategies of selected schools found that in Indonesia “even though schools are supposed to be smoke free areas, the informants often see their male teachers smoking” (Tahlil et al., 2013).

Something I noticed when walking through the streets of the Arab district was the ability for the community to band together and effectively administer a set of rules for selected areas. With particular focus on alleys where young children would reside. Signs posted stated “dilarang menaiki kendaraan di dalam kampung”, which translates to “riding a vehicle in the village is prohibited”.

In contrast to the legislative efforts administered by the local government to implement safe zones, these locally controlled areas proved to be successful with regards to public compliance. With an emphasis on limiting the flow of vehicles within the alleys, most local cafes and transport junctions were situated on the surrounding main strips. These were high activity zones for smoking – due to the prevalence of Warkop’s and transport workers within that area.

Smoking across Indonesian society is embedded heavily within their social dynamics as it connotes a sense of  camaraderie, particularly among men. With a statistic of 85% of transport workers being smokers, (Rita. K, 2014) it is not surprising that these high prevalence zones correlated with the male dominated hang-outs and transport junctions. Whereas in the restricted vehicle zones leading to the Bazaar and Sunan Ampel Mosque and Tomb, there was vastly lower prevalence of smoking activity.

The map I have generated outlines the high and low smoking zones, as well as the operations within each area.



1) Twombly, R. (2002). World Health Organization Takes on ‘Tobacco Epidemic’. Cancer Spectrum Knowledge Environment, 94(9), pp.644-646.

2) World Health Organization. (2018). Tobacco control in Indonesia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018].

3) H Van Minh, N Ng, S Wall, H Stenlund, R Bonita, L Weinehall, M Hakimi, P Byass (2006). Smoking Epidemics And Socio-Economic Predictors Of Regular Use And Cessation: Findings From WHO STEPS Risk Factor Surveys In Vietnam And Indonesia. The Internet Journal of Epidemiology, 3(1).

4) Tahlil, T., Woodman, R., Coveney, J. and Ward, P. (2013). The impact of education programs on smoking prevention: a randomized controlled trial among 11 to 14 year olds in Aceh, Indonesia. BMC Public Health, 13 (1).

5) Kirana, Rita and Dewi, Vonny Kresna and Barkinah, Tut and B., Isnaniah, ‘Smoking Behavior and Attitude Towards Cigarette Warning Labels Among Informal Workers in Surabaya City – East Java, Indonesia (April 2, 2014) < or hp://> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2018].

Post D: An Ingrained Culture

Smoking and the tobacco industry are heavily ingrained within Indonesian culture and have a significant impact on most of the population.  For many of the group this walking tour, led by the esteemed walker Anitha Silvia, was our first introduction to the local culture and tobacco culture within Surabaya. led by the esteemed walker, Anitha Silvia. Initially, we were taken through one of Surabaya’s many streets markets a market filled with a diverse range of people and produce, adjacent to House of Sampoerna. We tasted some local fruit and interacted with our 3 knowledgeable guides. Our next stop was The House of Sampoerna, a tobacco museum and factory of the biggest tobacco company in Indonesia. It was here that the sheer scale of the industry was first realised. Sampoerna Is a company that spans generations and provides the most popular cigarettes in Indonesia. Their traditional cigarettes allow them to corner 33% of the market within Indonesia with revenues of RP 99 trillion in 2017 (GmbH, 2018) This consistent strength reinforces the hold that the company has on the smokers of Indonesia. A hold that would be seen throughout the rest of the tour.

cig(Houseofsampoerna, 2018)

On the remainder of the tour, we visited various sights around northern Surabaya; temples, banks, coffee shops, markets, and public areas. The sights stretched across the three major areas: European, Chinese and Arab Quarter. In our exploration key insights into the nature of tobacco consumption in northern Surabaya where identified. One of these insights being the degree to which smoking is a social activity.  Warkop Sarkam, a coffee shop located within the Arab district is a prime example of a location that facilitates the social side of smoking (see figure 1). The shop consisted of older men conversing over cheap coffee and cigarettes making up most of their day. Highlighting that the primary source of social interaction amongst many men revolves around the shared consumption of tobacco products.

warkop(Warkop-sarkam, 2018)

Another significant insight made relates to the prevalence of passive and non-passive smoking in the workforce. Once again sights such as Warkop Sarkam and the Pabean Fish Markets, display recurring instances of smoking culture. In the case of stores such as Warkop Sarkam there are no laws in place that specifically protect its workers from the devastating effect of passive smoking. Additionally, in areas such as the Pabean Fish Markets, it not uncommon to see workers smoking freely whilst selling produce and performing various other activities. Once again reiterating the prevalence of smoking in all aspects of Indonesian life.

This tour of northern Surabaya was a dynamic and interesting way of uncovering many of its social nuances. Particularly in relation to the population’s smoking habits/traditions and the role they play in developing the smoking culture that forms a significant portion of Indonesian history.

2018 UCD Week 3 Research Question

References, 2018, House of Sampoerna, viewed 6 December 2018, <>

GmbH, f. 2018,, viewed 6 December 2018, <>

Image 1:, 2018, House of Sampoerna, viewed 6 December 2018, <>

Image 2:, 2018, viewed 6 December 2018, <>


Going Against the Grain

Cigarettes are ingrained within Indonesian Culture:

The huge role that smoking plays within the Indonesian culture is astounding. The price of cigarettes and rich instilled history means that it is a standard activity shared amongst young and old. Upon exploring the city of Surabaya, I learnt about the sophisticated backstory of the biggest cigarette producers, Sampoerna. This House of Sampoerna displayed historical pieces relating to the development of the brand and production line of the renowned cigarette. Being the most smoked cigarette in the city, it holds a bank of culture. Through this, it has developed a part of the Indonesian economy holding a large stature in the tobacco industry. With 76% of men smoking in 2015 (Schewe, E. 2017), the tobacco industry is a dominating figure within the Indonesian Government’s revenue reaching 55.8 trillion Rupiah in the 2017 January – July period (Lifang, S. 2017). When a fellow student of mine offered an older man a cigarette at the Warkop Sarkam coffee shop, he refused his offer as the cigarette was not of the type that the Surabayans smoke. This display of brand loyalty portrays the monopoly the brand Sapoerna has on the market. When a market as large scale as the tobacco industry is in Indonesia, and the lifestyle heavily involves smoking, the industry begins to seem as if it is a part of the culture.


Smoking cigarettes in this culture acts as a form of social interaction and a representation of personal image. When collaborating with students from the Institute of Technology Surabaya, they informed us that for the younger population, the brand of cigarette that they smoked had the same importance of the clothes that they wear. For university and school students, smoking can be used as a form of stress relief. Around 23% of children between the ages of 15-19 were smoking in 2016 (Senthilingam, M. 2017), and from trends is not showing any signs of decline despite the government raising the tax to an average of 10.54% (Lifang, S. 2017) in an attempt to reduce the consumption of cigarettes.

Another trend that I noticed while exploring the streets of Surabaya was the smoking of cigarettes while working. Throughout the fish markets, coloured streets and cafes, people worked with a smoke in their mouth. The lack of acknowledgment to those around them in a public space shows that they are so used to smoking all the time.

Indonesian Man Smoking.png

While all of these different scenarios may seem like casual smoking on the street when walking past, they are part of a much bigger part of the culture. Some of the big reasons for the large percentage of smokers can be linked back to the ingrained smoking culture.

Map of Surabaya




Schewe, E. 2017, ‘Why Do So Many Indonesian Men Smoke?’, JStor Daily, viewed 7 December 2018, <;

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked’, The Jakarta Post, viewed 7 December 2018, <;

Lifang, S. 2017, ‘Indonesia’s revenues from cigarette tax rise in first 7 months’, Xinhuanet, viewed 7 December 2018, <;

Senthilingam, M. 2017, ‘Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic’, CNN, reviewed 7 December 2018, <;

Image 1: Goodridge, S. 2018, Surabaya. Surabaya, Indonesia

Image 2: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, viewed 8 December 2018, <;

Image 3: Goodridge, S. 2018, Map of Surabaya. Surabaya, Indonesia



Blog post D: Smoking for the economy, work environment and social interactions.


As we explored the intricate ins and outs of Surabaya, tobacco smoke clouded the air, proving smoking is not only a region-wide habit, but is embedded in the culture and the environment. With each turn of a street, the significance and prevalence of smoking changed dependent on international cultural influences, whether it be Arabic, European or Chinese (Silvia 2016). Furthermore, the values inherent in tobacco use change significantly as we walk along the street, observing and dissolving into the various settings from social, working, leisure and religious contexts.

The house of Sampoerna is one of the largest cigarette factories, displaying the history and growth of the 234 tobacco brand, since it was established by Liem Seeng Tee in 1932 (House of Sampoerna 2004).  Within the compound, hundreds of women are employed as factory workers, each working from 6am to 1pm, to return home afterwards and care for their children as they finish school. Each worker is given a role in the factory – rolling, trimming or packing the cigarettes. The factory provides women with a safe working environment and a generous income – enough to afford to send their children to university. Within this area on our journey, tobacco holds significance as a workplace that is essential, and one of the many tobacco factories in Indonesia that underpin the countries economy.

As we journeyed through the fish markets, stall owners sat on cardboard boxes or stools, smoking a cigarette as they wait for customers to walk through. Although the environment is loud and polluted with people, the stall owners appear relaxed and stationary as they smoke. Cigarettes are welcomed in their work environment, similarly with almost all of the workers we observed through our Surabaya journey. Painters smoked as they climbed scaffolding to paint the colourful fronts of Jalan Panggung houses. In these contexts, smoking accompanies the people as an accessory to their work environment, providing them with stress relief and a relaxed space.


(New, R 2018)

The social value in smoking can be seen in almost every space of Surabaya, as clusters of locals are scattered throughout, smoking and spending time together in a very casual way. The social significance is extremely prevalent in coffee houses. The warerkop sakam is a particularly popular coffee house – a place where locals gather for the inexpensive coffee in a space to socialise and smoke. Similar to most coffee houses, men occupied the warerkop sakam, filling the space with cigarette smoke as they chatted and drank coffee.


Silvia, A 2016, Europe Quarter of Surabaya, Pamphlet, Pertigaan Map.

House of Sampoerna 2004, A dash of history – a splash of beauty, viewed 6 December 2018 <>

Chen, J.  2018, Pabean Fish Market, Surabaya, Indonesia.


Exercising Empathy

What I continually find perplexing is understanding what forms the habitual behaviours of smokers. Why do people choose to smoke? What causes someone to light up a cigarette at a given specific time? Why do some days consist of far more or less cigarettes than others? What auditory and ocular inputs create an urge for nicotine? Is it something more than this? What’s evident in plain sight and what isn’t.

This exercise is a two part process, firstly I wanted to utilise the opportunity to walk around the crowded and beautiful streets in Surabaya’s varying districts and look inward to attempt to identify when I felt like smoking and what form that took. After identifying the ‘triggers’ within myself I am interested to compare them to others. Other Australians, people in different age groups and people from the Indonesian culture as I am sure there are many significant cultural triggers, assumptions, interpretations of situations and rationals behind smoking. None the less here are my initial reflections from my group walk around Surabaya. 

The map below displays the general area of Surabaya and its three main regions. The line shows the route we took and also depicts the time of day. The orange areas indicate spaces or contexts in which I wanted to smoke, and purple areas show areas I particularly did not want to smoke. All other areas are neutral. 

Figure a. Representative map of the walking tour and internal emotions towards smoking.

Main observations:

  • Religious and Respected Areas: Out of all the areas I definitely did not want to smoke in any religious areas. They felt sacred and it felt a place that smoking didn’t belong, perhaps being something that I find very light hearted – I think the ‘energy’ of both of these activities would of clashed. The same went for when we were inside the Arabic clothing markets, I felt smoking here would of been disrespectful even though I saw other people doing so.

    Figure b. Chinese Temple in Chinese Quarter


  • Smoking Socially: In new social situations like all of the cafes, or when we stopped together to eat I definitely felt inclined to smoke but it would of had to been with people. The time I most felt like this was in the cafe where we stopped for coffee with a large group of locals. Not being able to speak the language, I think it would of been something to establish a line of communication through something shared.

    Figure c. Social Cafe “Warkop Sarkam” where we sat with locals and drank coffee. (Nelson, 2018)


  • Being amongst the workers: Surprisingly despite all the unfamiliar smells, high temperature and physical exertion of walking I felt like smoking in all of the labour intensive market areas. I think if I was actually working that urge would be much more intense. I believe that there is a shared sense of camaraderie in smoking in a labour intensive workplace. There are shared struggles and triumphs but I feel these are rarely verbally communicated. I feel as if smoking here is a unified way of sharing something tangible – as if it enables acknowledgement of ‘the grind’.

    Figure d. One of the workers in the street communicating non-verbally. (Goodridge, 2018)


There is much to write about and reflect on with this experience, but this is a starting point to sparking new conversations about whats beneath smoking and what it stands for and symbolises. I very much look forward to conversing with people who smoke in Indonesian culture and finding the similarities and differences between people to gain deeper insights on the “Why” around all this. 



Resource Maps:

Sylvia, A 2016, Europe Quater of Surabaya, Pamphlet, Pertigaan Map

Sylvia, A 2016, Chinese Quater of Surabaya, Pamphlet, Pertigaan Map

Sylvia, A 2016, Arabic Quater of Surabaya, Pamphlet, Pertigaan Map


Golik, S., 2017. Mapping the reality of the world – Mapfit - Moving maps forward – Medium. Available at: [Accessed December 6, 2018].

Ferguson, P.P. 1994, The flâneur on and off the streets of Paris. In Tester, K. (ed) The flãneur. London: Routledge, pp.23-42.

Elkin, L., (2016). A tribute to female flâneurs: the women who reclaimed our streets – The Guardian. Available at: [Accessed December 6, 2018].