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, <https://daily.jstor.org/why-do-so-many-indonesian-men-smoke/&gt;

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked’, The Jakarta Post, viewed 7 December 2018, <http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/06/04/indonesias-lax-smoking-laws-are-helping-next-generation-to-get-hooked.html&gt;

Lifang, S. 2017, ‘Indonesia’s revenues from cigarette tax rise in first 7 months’, Xinhuanet, viewed 7 December 2018, < http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-08/02/c_136494398.htm&gt;

Senthilingam, M. 2017, ‘Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic’, CNN, reviewed 7 December 2018, <https://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/30/health/chain-smoking-children-tobacco-indonesia/index.html&gt;

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

Image 2: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, viewed 8 December 2018, <https://seatca.org/?p=7546&gt;

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



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