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,  <>.

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