Post D – Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Cigarette: Smoking Culture in Surabaya

Smoking is a very natural thing in Indonesia, especially in the lower middle class in North Surabaya. It is culture since the second president era around 1967 which united Indonesians, also smoking is considered as one of the ways to communicate to others (Fuaddah 2018). There are many men from young to old who smoke freely in various places (see figure 1 & 2). One of the cause of the continuation of this smoking culture is because of the lack of knowledge supported by the poverty in Indonesia, which makes children who do not continue their education is not a surprising thing. From the data of Child Protection Institution in Surabaya, 70% of Indonesian smokers come from the poor family (Warkota 2018). Therefore, this tobacco issue is a big thing considering that these next generations do not get any proper education or health knowledge in this case; and they will be carrying this cultural practice to the future.

figure 1 (left): A group of old and young men seen smoking in warung at Kalimas Road  (Kezia Oktavia 2018)
figure 2 (right): A man smoking on his becak  at Surabaya Chinatown, Kembang Jepun Road (Kezia Oktavia 2018)

By looking at the smoking old men, there are few incongruities that can be seen. The social position of old men is supposed to be a father or at least the breadwinner for the family. Considering that the men I saw there just blowing smoke inconsiderately, like these two substantial moments I captured: a man that smokes on their becak (Indonesian traditional public transportation) and the fishmonger that blowing the smoke onto the fishes while offering people to buy (see figure 2 & 3). Talking economic-wise, how can you market your product like that. Also with the small wages, a man needs to fulfil their family needs and children’s education, and yet still set aside some money for cigarettes. On the other hand, a father should become an example for his children, where the children do not get the right needs as well as the victim of second-hand smoking when at home (Muslech 2014).

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figure 3: Fishmongers seen smoking while offering people to buy at Pabean Fish Market (Kezia Oktavia 2018)

In some other area in Surabaya is more modern from the North Surabaya. Like East, West, Central Surabaya people are more reluctant to smoke in public place and indoor area, also smoking room is more common (Sumarno 2009). Contrasting Indonesia with a develop country like Sydney is an example to understand the situations. Both smoking cultures are very contrast, Sydney has more clear legislation than Indonesia, like the ‘4 metre law’ which banned people from smoking within 4 metres from public buildings (Smoke-free Environment Act 2000). Sydney’s fine on smoking out of place is bigger than Indonesia’s fine affecting Sydney people to be more careful to smoke. Moreover, people in Sydney are more educated and thought more about health conscious and all the bad effects of the second-hand smoker. The self-awareness has been growing inside the people to be more considerate to smoke in public places even though there is not much of smoking signs in Sydney.


figure 4: Hand drawn map of people seen smoking and children around on our Surabaya’s Arab and Chinese Quarter Tour with C20 Library representatives  (Kezia Oktavia 2018)



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