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.
- 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
- World Health Organization [WHO], Tobacco Control in Indonesia, WHO, Geneva, viewed 4th of December 2018, <http://www.who.int/tobacco/about/partners/bloomberg/idn/en/>.