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 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 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, <;.

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, <;.

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 <;.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s