Almost all the Indonesian population are stakeholders of the tobacco industry, whether they wish to be or not. They may actively use tobacco products or have never been inclined to, but their decisions within a tobacco saturated environment will inevitably affect the industry as well as themselves. Conducting interviews with resident within Surabaya was one of the most effective methods to understand the perception and attitudes towards tobacco products and to grasp how heavily ingrained they are into everyday Indonesian life. Most interviews conducted where with students from UNAIR (Airlangga University), these student study public health and are deeply invested in the management and reduction of tobacco culture in Indonesia.
These students had a wealth of knowledge on the culture of tobacco smoking within Indonesia and the key factors that add to this culture. Many of the students highlighted the fact that there is little formal education about the negative repercussions of smoking, rather they receive information from cigarette packages and ads on the negative side effects. Never the less the students I spoke to also believed that their decision to not smoke was directly correlated to education within the home and community and within schools. Many of the student parents are against smoking and encourage their children to avoid it. With a mean age of initiation into daily smoking at 17.6 and a population of 23 million between the ages of 13 – 17 (WHO), highlighting the importance of educational systems in the early intervention of tobacco consumption.
Figure 1: Meeting with UNAIR students
The UNAIR students have participate in and run several anti-smoking and awareness campaigns within Surabaya. Perhaps one of their most effective initiatives begin the smoke free communities. The communities have signage asking individuals not to smoke in these areas, additionally motorbike is to be switched off and walked through the area. The idea behind these communities is to develop a safe space for people to live without the impact of tobacco products. Minimising the exposure of youth to tobacco smoke and advertisement is another contributor to the success of the communities. When talking the UNAIR students about tobacco control there was an underlying theme of helplessness due to the Indonesia economic dependency on the tobacco industry as well as the lack of government involvement in helping to reduce consumption. But they remain hopeful as there are signs of change. Particularly when referring to these smoke free communities, as they believe that making small incremental change can have a much larger effect on the perception and participation with tobacco culture.
Figure 2: UNAIR students participating in anti-smoking initiative
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