C. Tobaccocation

Indra a UNAIR student

Smoking habits within Indonesian culture starts from a very young age. With primary research showing the direct correlation to smoking and peer pressure in schools, I was interested to see how education plays a role in the tobacco epidemic. Sreeramareddy et al. (2014), speaks of tobacco use being associated with lower education and poverty, showing over 70% of Indonesian tobacco users having only received equivalent of a primary education. Complementary to this report, Sohn (2013), conducted a study which showed the beneficial effects high school education levels had on smoking behaviour. The effects in this study correlate to the cognitive skills, risk aversion and patience taught during this time in school that are mediating factors to smoking behaviours. To develop on this research, I decided to speak with a UNAIR (Airlangga University) student, Indra about his personal experience with tobacco.

Indra is a university student studying health at Airlangga University. Indra suffers from Asthma and therefore chooses not to smoke. His friends are extremely supportive of his decision and if they’re smokers themselves, they always make sure they don’t smoke around him. Indra’s father was a heavy smoker for a large part of his life. He quit last year as he was diagnosed with a lung disease which made him realise how this habit was effecting his health. When I spoke with Indra about his family’s support and understanding of the health issues associated with tobacco use, he told me that if he were to partake in smoking, he believes he would be kicked out of home. Indra told me that his school was of high calibre and therefore he believes his education has made a direct contribution to his choice of not smoking. From speaking with Indra, I realised how education and family/community support was a driving factor in the choices made towards tobacco consumption. Being educated in a school and home environment has made a direct effect on Indra’s view of smoking.

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Study of low-income contributions to tobacco use – Hiscock et al. (2017)

A study conducted by Hiscock et al. (2017), in Indonesia, shows that uptake of smoking is higher among those of a low socioeconomic status and that quit attempts are less likely to be successful. This study shows that from reduced social support, low motivation to quit and stronger addictions, this income bracket has a higher prevalence of smoking culture. Although education isn’t the only factor at play to help prevent smoking, my experience within Surabaya showed me that public awareness of the adverse effects of smoking is limited. In order to start making a change to a behaviour so ingrained in the culture of this country, we must look at informing the public of the risks associated to tobacco use across all socioeconomic levels, especially those of low income and low education. 



Sohn, K. (2013). A note on the effects of education on youth smoking in a developing country. Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, [online] 19(1), pp.66-73. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kitae_Sohn2/publication/263607895_A_note_on_the_effects_of_education_on_youth_smoking_in_a_developing_country/links/5b422d8baca2728a0d62bd76/A-note-on-the-effects-of-education-on-youth-smoking-in-a-developing-country.pdf [Accessed 19 Dec. 2018].

Sreeramareddy, C., Pradhan, P., Mir, I. and Sin, S. (2014). Smoking and smokeless tobacco use in nine South and Southeast Asian countries: prevalence estimates and social determinants from Demographic and Health Surveys. Population Health Metrics, [online] 12(1). Available at: https://pophealthmetrics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12963-014-0022-0#Sec9  [Accessed 19 Dec. 2018].

Hiscock, R., Bauld, L., Amos, A., Fidler, J. and Manufo, M. (2017). Socioeconomic status and smoking: a review. Addiction Reviews. [online] Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, pp.107-123. Available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/41157251/ [Accessed 19 Dec. 2018]. 

POST A: the engagement of tobacco companies with the creative community, sets normative ethics surrounding tobacco

“The designer as the creator of a persuasive image or message, has an ethical responsibility to understand the impact their message will have” – D K Holland

The design of the tobacco industry in Indonesia, from advertising to the carrying out of sponsored events, is purposely created to be manipulative and deceptive. It is this that continues to make Indonesia the second largest smoking nation, allowing tobacco companies to have such a huge influence on Indonesian culture and lifestyle (Noviandari 2016). Design has a widespread reach and therefore designers have the power to challenge the values of their society, acting as an agent for change. It is important to be authentic in our work and look at both the intentional and unintentional consequences of the work that we produce. However, this form of design activism depends largely on our intrinsic values and what we deem as ethical and unethical. Ethical standards are very much determined by societal standards, and for Indonesia, the normalization of tobacco makes it more difficult for individuals to be an agent for change. Ross states that ethics is in the eye of the beholder and that ‘making ethical decisions is an opportunity to create community’(Ross 1991). The sense of community within smokers in Indonesia, which frames many social aspects of Indonesian culture (Ng 2007), leads designers in Indonesia to be actively engaged in designing for tobacco companies, without questioning their personal involvement.

Limited edition packaging winner display on goaheadpeople.id website and A Mild limited packaging 2016 (Astuti et al. 2018)

The level of engagement tobacco companies have in the design and creative community has created a positive brand image, an idea evident in the ‘Go Ahead’ challenges for the tobacco company ‘A Mild’. In 2016 ‘A Mild’ held a design competition for a limited edition A Mild cigarette package (Astuti et al. 2018). The competition gained engagement with over 1 million Indonesians, responding by casting a vote from the selected designers (Go Ahead People 2016). The winning designer of this competition Leonard Theosabrata, a well-known young Indonesian artist, had his work used on special metal packs in August 2016 as part of a build-up to a concert (Review Rokok 2016).

Display of Go Ahead challenge winners at the SoundrenAline concert including Go Ahead x Leo photobooth—the winner of limited edition A Mild design competition. (Astuti et al. 2018)

The goaheadpeople.id website serves as an online brand community (Martínez-López et al. 2017), allowing registers to post creative works, vote in design competitions and share creative projects. The stakeholders even include the involvement of artists as mentors on the website, thus making an even more difficult landscape to challenge the normative ethics surrounding design and tobacco in Indonesia.

Reference List:

Astuti, P.A.S., Assunta, M. & Freeman, B. 2018, “Raising generation ‘A’: a case study of millennial tobacco company marketing in Indonesia”, Tobacco control, vol. 27, pp. e41-e49.

Go Ahead People 2016, ‘Go Ahead x Leonard Theosabrata’, Go Ahead, accessed 13 March 2017, <https://www.goaheadpeople.id/whats-on_a/lepwinner&gt;.

Martínez-López, FJ., Anaya-Sánchez, R., Molinillo, S. 2017, Consumer engagement in an online brand community, Electron Commer Res Appl, pp. 24–37, <doi:10.1016/j.elerap.2017.04.002>.

Ng, N., Weinehall, L. & Öhman, A. 2007, “‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’–Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking”, Health education research, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 794-804.

Noviandari, L. 2016, With A Long History In Indonesia, Tobacco Remains An Economic Pillar, Indonesia Expat, viewed 20 December 2018, <http://indonesiaexpat.biz/business-property/history-future-tobacco-business-indonesia/&gt;.

Ross,Arthur, I.,II 1991, Ethical decisions create a feeling of community Series: GUEST COLUMN, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Review Rokok 2016, Sampoerna A Mild Limited Edition Pack By Leonard Theosabrata Design, Kemasan Kaleng Kolaborasi Pertama dari A Mild, viewed 20 December 2018 <http://reviewrokok.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/sampoerna-mild-limited-edition-pack-by.html&gt;.


Post A: Alcohol and Tobacco

There are different activities can develop to cultural norms that in countries through years of tradition and participation by individuals the population. Indonesia is a country with one of the highest prevalence of smoking with 64% of males smoking and has developed a significant culture and identity around tobacco related products. As well as it is supporting the economy within the country. Similarly, Australia has established a significant alcohol-based culture an identity that is embedded in most social activities and situations. Australian drinking culture much like Indonesian smoking culture permeates a range of areas in everyday life; social, workplace, sporting, tv/advertising and family.

The cultural insignificance within these countries relates heavily to the social aspect that coincides with the consumption of these products. In Australia most, social situations coincide with alcohol consumption; its used as a celebration, a form or relaxation and a way to connect with new or old friends, to build relationships. An idea which is communicated through advertising and branding of the companies. The harmful drinking culture within Australia is normalised through the contributions of alcohol advertising. Figure one is just one example of the subliminal messages hidden within the advertisements.

VB ad

Figure 1: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-30/major-sports-give-tough-new-alcohol-advertising-bill-the-boot/9206580

There is a prominent industry which is built around the prevalence of this culture, pubs, clubs and bars make up a vast majority of income within the hospitality industry. The alcohol and beverage industry employees a total of around 400,000 people, with a total economic contribution of 19 billion and a further 5 billion in tax (according to the Alcoholic beverages Australia). These figures highlight drinking as more than just an activity that the population participates in. Rather it is a part of a much bigger industry which contributes heavily to the economic stability of the country.

Economic dependence on an industry can be seen in Australia to an extent, this can also be seen with companies desire to keep the developed culture alive. This economic dependence is astronomic within Indonesia when speaking about the Tobacco industry. the industry makes up a significant portion of the countries income, which is reflective in the lack of anti-smoking legislation and enforcement as well as the prevalence of cigarette advertising. As a designer the subliminal message which are delivered to venerable or impressionable individuals are clear (figure 2). Additionally, as a practising designer there is a responsibility which exists when creating images and experiences which target these vulnerable groups. Ideally one would use design as a tool to incite change within a harmful culture rather than contributing to an ingrained issue.

mal ad

Figure 2: https://www.dw.com/en/smoking-will-die-down-eventually-says-psychologist-ahead-of-advertising-ban/a-19203016


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018, Alcohol Overview – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Viewed 18 Dec. 2018 <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/alcohol/overview>

Who.int, 2018, Viewed 18 Dec 2018 <https://www.who.int/tobacco/surveillance/policy/country_profile/idn.pdf>

Ahsan. A, Adioetomo. S, Barber. S, Setyonaluri. D. 2008. Tobacco Economics in Indonesia. Bloomberg Philanthopies, Viewed 18 Dec 2018

Absolute Agency and the Influence of Designers on Individual Freedom

When it comes to ethics, theres a lot of grey area. What may be just and fair for some people may be incredibly unethical for others. None the less, I do believe designers themselves have a huge responsibility to at least have the intent to act ethically and owe their consumers the consideration of the impact their design decisions may have on them. 

One of the largest grey area in ethical design is the impact design decisions have on peoples individual freedom. Take for example a fast food chain, if a vulnerable person has the best intentions to eat healthy that day – but is subjected to a constant bombardment of advertisement from a company like McDonalds and ends up eating fast food that day, who exactly had agency over that decision. While this person may of made the final call, should McDonalds be accountable for the influence on that persons individual freedom? 

Advertising is a powerful thing.

Much of this can be applied to the various tobacco campaigns around Indonesia. “Organisations, like individuals, operate  as stages of moral development” (Baucus, 2005). By measure of Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development it would appear that tobacco companies are acting around stage two focused only on self interest (Goodpaster, 1982). It doesn’t take long walking around Indonesia to see some of the absurdly forward and ‘loud’ advertising that companies use no doubt influencing the lives of many Indonesian citizens, particularly the youth who tend to be more impressionable. 

Surya – a common cigarette brand in Indonesia’s current marketing campaign.

So like the fast food chains and many other large companies with strong marketing campaigns – the Indonesian tobacco industry has a responsibility to its Indonesian citizens to relinquish control over individual agency. As stated in the beginning, we as designers all inform the change that needs to come about in order to start to tackle such a large issue like ethics within the tobacco industry of Indonesia. 

So what do we need to do?

I think that in order to restore true agency and individual the first thing designers need to do is make ‘openness’ the accepted social norm. In all design, there needs to be more discussion and openness about the type of strategies being used and why the work. I believe the public has an absolute right to know what kind of subliminal design decisions are influencing their behaviours and interaction with the products around them. If all designers and companies take on this attitude when developing and releasing products then perhaps we can start to shift the big giants to. Eventually perhaps we can get to a place where we find some honesty within advertising and begin to see a much more aware public truely making daily decisions for themselves.




Baucus, Melissa S., and Caryn L. Beck-Dudley. “Designing Ethical Organizations: Avoiding the Long-Term Negative Effects of Rewards and Punishments.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 56, no. 4, 2005, pp. 355–370. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25123441.

Goodpaster, Kenneth E. “Kohlbergian Theory: A Philosophical Counterinvitation.” Ethics 92, no. 3 (1982): 491-98. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2380734.

Latham, H. (2018). ‘Ethical design’ is a dangerous term – UX Collective. [online] UX Collective. Available at: https://uxdesign.cc/ethical-design-is-a-dangerous-term-b314a5e385f4 [Accessed 19 Dec. 2018].

A More Personal Perspective

As I have talked about in other blog posts I am tremendously curious on trying to understand why people choose to engage with tobacco use and how this various across different cultures. Academic papers were a great start but during my time in Indonesia it was talking to the people that yielded the biggest insights for me. 

A photo of our jeep driver on our journey to Mount Bromo. What influenced this mans decision to smoke while driving?

Before our first day with the ITS students I was doing some reading about the student role within Indonesia since it appears to quite a critical time for smokers. Studies show that smoking increases from 19.8% for 11 year olds to 53% for 17 year olds (Smet, B 1999). This is a time where students begin to have many more external influencers as to previously deriving most of their outlook on the world from parental figures and a comparatively small environment. 

It’s interesting comparing these statistics to the role Indonesian youth plays in the political system. “Student organisations have been splintered, their traditions confused. Their political activity, moreover, has long reflected the strong outside influence of the established political forces in the country” (P, Lyman 1965). We know in other cultures such as Iran tobacco has been a way of youthful rebellion (E, Batmanghelidj n.d) so perhaps it might be here to – due to the youth being unable to express themselves of advocate for change politically. While these are older papers, it might even give more insight into the social foundation current Indonesia is stemming from. 

This all started coming together upon talking to an Indonesian Chef who told me he started smoking at age 15 with his friends to rebel. He said it wasn’t even against any particular figure or group – but against some of the culture itself. 

The most in depth conversation I had however was with Alya, an ITS student from Indonesia. This conversation for me, yielded far more results than any of the reading I had done so far – and she hardly even touched on Tobacco. Alya explained her life story to me growing up in Indonesia. She explained how oppressed she felt due to the religious, political and social factors growing up. When I asked her about oppression in Indonesian she simply said – “I think both Indonesian culture and muslim religion is oppressive. I See things from a lot of different cultures and I feel like I can’t be myself.”

Alya (middle).

Being such a complex issue, I don’t want to simmer down tobacco in Indonesian youth down to feelings of oppression. Oppression isn’t obvious to the average observers eye, and I’m happy having left Indonesia with newfound insights. From my research here, I’m lead to believe that addressing how a more westernised youth trying to adapt to Indonesian culture is influencing a “Tobacco Rebellion”. 



Smet B, Maes L, De Clercq L, et al Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia Tobacco Control 1999;8:186-191.

Lyman, Princeton N. “Students and Politics in Indonesia and Korea.” Pacific Affairs 38, no. 3/4 (1965): 282-93.

Batmanghelidj, Esfandyar. “Smoking in Iran.” Encyclopedia Iranica. Center for Iranian Studies, Columbia University. http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/smoking-in-iran. [Accessed 16 Dec. 2018].

It’s Time for Us to Change: Exposure to Cigarette Advertising Among Youth

Every design has a consequences to its surrounding, whether in the forms of political, technical, ideological or social (Stolterman & Lowgren, 2004). As a designer, the impact of our work or design towards the society is our responsibility. Stolterman and Lowgren (2004)  stated that when a designer accepted a job, he or she should be driven by the client wishes, however a professional designer should always stand on their integrity to reconsider other aspects that would impact his or her work. We always have to keep in mind that any designs has direct influence to the growth of its surrounding, where the design takes place or being published to the society.

Nowadays, ethical design has been the trend; many people believe that designers should create with a good cause. Yet, it is still rare to see an ethical design on tobacco products. Like this one, during my trip in Surabaya, I pass through this advertisement boxes which really caught my attention (see figure 1). It did not cross my mind that it was a cigarettes advertisement. There were some youth groups taking pictures with the light boxes, it  is undoubtedly a beautiful installation. They played this enticing  graphic video of the tobacco company’s brand for about 30 seconds and then the warning image with this really small pixelated words for about 5 seconds (see figure 2). It was very concerning and upsetting to see, the design is obviously constructed that way.

7ada2852-154e-4831-95e7-3e3ed98f0999figure 1: Light boxes installations for Djarum Cigarette Advertisment in Food Festival, Pakuwon City, Surabaya
079a3cd3-a72b-4cd7-8679-749cf311dc40figure 2: pixelated and tiny health warnings on the end of the ads.

In Indonesia, the tobacco industries are generating US$22,688 million in 2018 (Statistica 2018). The unrestricted legislation of tobacco advertisement are playing a huge role of success in Indonesian tobacco industries (Nitcher et al. 2008). Most Indonesian tobacco brands on advertisements are associated with a lifestyle and masculinity (Reynolds 1999).  This strategy is suitable to the youth in Indonesia, where the promotion, advertising and sponsorship of youth activities by cigarette companies is becoming intense. One of the well known cigarette brand, A-mild, has a creative academy which gathers creative young Indonesians to join and show their talents in many fields such as photography, musicians, visual art, and others (Go Ahead People n.d). Looking at Australian alcohol culture and policy; Australia also has an issue about the exposure of alcohol. In 2012, PHAIWA, (2018)stated that 91% of Australian are worried about the alcohol use in the mid of young Australian. Moreover, in 2010 Australian government record that alcohol related harm are costing AU$36 billion a year (Laslett et al. 2011). It is predictable that this issue occurred because of one of the factor that there is a connection between high exposure of alcohol advertisements to drinking behaviour of young people (Anderson et al. 2009). To tackle this problem, Australia alcohol beverage industries agreed to make a self- regulation organization called ABAC(The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code), to make sure that the advertisements are appropriate for the young people (William et al. 2016).

With both industries cause problems on the way they advertise, the future designers have to see this as a challenge where their design should be appropriate to the social environment. It is good to always look back to what already happened or being done from those tobacco company, like the light boxes examples, and try to take over the generations for healthier future.



  • Anderson, P., de Bruijn, A., Angus, K., Gordon, R. and Hastings, G. 2009,’ Impact of Alcohol Advertising and Media Exposure on Adolescent Alcohol Use: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies’, Alcohol and Alcoholism, 44(3), pp.229-243.
  • Go Ahead People n.d., viewed 20 december 2018, <https://www.goaheadpeople.id&gt;.
  • Laslett, A., Room, R., Ferris, J., Wilkinson, C., Livingston, M. and Mugavin, J. 2011, Surveying the range and magnitude of alcohol’s harm to others in Australia,Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation, Canberra, 106(9), pp.1603-1611.
  • Nitcher, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y., Nitcher, M. 2008, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 2, viewed 19 December 2018, <https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/18/2/98&gt;.
  • Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia, Alcohol related harm among young people in Australia, Viewed 20 December 2018, <https://mcaay.org.au/key-concerns.aspx&gt;
  • Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: defining characteristics for success’, Tobacco Control, vol.8(1), pp.85-88,  view20 December 2018,<https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/8/1/85&gt;.
  • Stolterman, E. & Lowgren, J. 2004, Thoughtful Interaction Design, MIT Press, Cambridge.
  • Statista, 2018, Tobacco Products – Indonesia, U.S, view 20 December 2018,<https://www.statista.com/outlook/50000000/120/tobacco-products/indonesia#market-globalRevenue&gt;.
  • William, P., Ferrell, O., Lukas, B., Schembri, S., Niininen, O. & Cassidy, R. 2016, Marketing principle, 3rd ed, Cengage learning Australia, Victoria.

POST C – ‘I would’ve been rich, if I didn’t smoke.’

My trip to Gresik was even more exciting with Pak Yalfari, a Grab driver, who is cheerful and loves telling stories. On the way, I told him that I am going to visit this woman who is a throat cancer survivor. Pak Yalfari was immediately sounded very curious and repeatedly ask questions about this woman. I asked him why he is interested about her story. Then, he acknowledged that he was once a heavy smoker for 30 years. He discovered a cigarette from his friends and had been addicted to smoking since he was 10 years old.


Before migrating to Surabaya for working as a worker in an export-import ship company, he was born and raised in a small village called Kerinci in Jambi, Sumatra. Kerinci village are surrounded by lots of plantation. The cold atmosphere in the village triggers people to smoke. Pak Yalfari said to me that it is rare to meet people who are non-smokers; the fact that Kerinci get the highest rate of smokers compared to other village in Jambi (Departemen Kesehatan RI 2018). Not only men, women who are farmer or married are mostly smokers (Tribun Jambi 2011). He already knew the dangers of smoking from advertisements and health warnings on the cigarette packs, yet the pleasure of smoking is stronger than the long-term effects. From an interview in a scholarly journal about smoking behavior, it is concluded that people admitted that smoking was able to provide a sense of relaxation and warmth (Mulyani 2015).

‘Smoking is a waste,’ said Pak Yalfari. During the trip, he made a joke and imagined the calculation of money if he did not use his money to buy cigarettes instead saving them. ‘I would’ve been rich, if I didn’t smoke,’ he said with laughter. He smoked 3 packs for 2 days regularly, that means if one pack is 20.000 rupiah, he spent 60.000 rupiah every two days.

Yalfari’s wife, who is a nurse, always encouraged him to quit smoking because his mouth became stink. He also realized some changes in his body. His stamina weaken, he would be easily exhausted when doing fast activities. Moreover, before he went to bed, his breath sounds like a loud pinched sound. But none of this stopped him from smoking. Until he worked as a freelance driver, before he became Grab’s driver. He realized that many of his clients who smoke have a very bad breath, the smell stuck on his car and was disrupted him while driving. Since that time, Pak Yalfari has begun to reconsider his smoking habits. Until 10 years ago, he decided to quit smoking. Pak Yalfari found that he could quit easily because it is based on his own desire. The pleasure of cigarettes is still haunting his head sometimes, but considering his wife and the disgusting effects of cigarettes, he dares not to touch cigarettes again.

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Tobacco advertisings seen on small shops (warung) and billboard during our way back to Surabaya from Gresik.

In addition, when I wondered about the massive cigarette advertisements displayed in small shops or warung along our trip, it turned out that Pak Yalfari is involved in this matter. He owns a warung in Sidoarjo. Even though Pak Yalfari is non-smoker now, yet he confessed to still accept any sponsorship money from the tobacco company.  It cannot be denied that the tobacco company is very helpful for small businesses like warung to get their main fund for free (Nitcher et al. 2008). Pak Yalfari said that advertising small banners usually paid for 3 packs of cigarettes, and large banners can be paid up to 300,000 rupiah.