D. Culture of Tobacco – female to male smoking prevalence

Surabaya is the second most populous city in Indonesia. It has one of the most busiest seaports and is an important financial hub. It has a particular importance in the trading of coffee, sugar and tobacco. “The tobacco industry here is very strong. Unlike in most other countries now, they’re still perceived simply as a normal business and treated that way.” says Dr. Widyastuti Soerojo, head of the Tobacco Control Unit in the Indonesian Public Health Association. Due to this, there is an extreme lack in the necessary control measures. Tobacco plays a huge role in the Indonesian culture and walking around Surabaya proved very evidently of how tobacco is integrated into the lifestyles of majority of the population.

Upon observation, through walking through different parts of Surabaya, from the Europe quarter, Chinese quarter and Arab quarter, and through the different places we walked through, I noticed that it was more common to see men smoking rather than the women. According to WHO, they state that 65.4% of men smoked tobacco, where women were only at 1.8% (WHO, 2017). Research reveals that Indonesian women are known for the growing and processing of tobacco, (evident in witnessing the cigarette production floor of House of Sampoerna) yet their smoking rates are low in comparison to males. This may be due to commonly attibuted cultural values, stigmatising women smokers as morally flawed (Barraclough, 1999)

One observation from walking through the fruit market, where it was predominantly female vendors, in comparison to walking through the wet market, where it was predominantly male vendors, was that there was a significantly noticeable difference in who was smoking. I found that it was more common to see men smoking in the stalls. Another observation was through the ‘bawang’ market, as it was also predominantly female vendors with little to no smoking. Whereas, in visiting the public bathroom and ‘warung’s’, it was most common to find men resting and smoking.

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Concept mapping of points of interest visited around Surabaya. It was through walking around these different areas that I personally noticed the prevalence of men smoking compared to women.


Indonesia is the only country in the Asia-Pacific region that has yet to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. According to Mark Hurley, former Indonesia director for Tobacco-freekids, “The big companies have convinced the government they are important for local [tobacco] farmers and for tax revenues,” However in reality, the costs of treating diseases caused by tobacco outweigh any economic benefits. (Bevins, 2017)



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