The Perception of Cigarettes

The smell of Japanese cuisine wafts gently through the air before being engulfed in the flustered movements of waiters shuffling systematically around large round tables. Plates clatter and click against frantic discussion and small talk with eagerly pressed elbows firmly placed into a draped crisp white cloth. In the foreground is Admad a 20-year-old ITS industrial design student with a passion for design and activism. I begin my interview by introducing myself and discussing our mutual understanding of CAD and rendering software before beginning my inquiry into the tobacco industries vice-like grip on Indonesia and the perspective held by the Indonesian people.

One of the major concepts which I wanted to explore within this interview was the perspective of tobacco held by modern Indonesia. I specifically wanted to gain an understanding of the role of tobacco companies within Indonesia society in light of contemporary understandings of smokings ill effects and repercussions. From this understanding, I posed the question “Do you believe Tobacco Companies are beneficial for Indonesian society” from this question I entered with a preconceived idea that contemporary Indonesians would perceive tobacco companies as a negative influence. Admad responded, “tobacco companies are good for Indonesia because they provide so much for Indonesians”. This juxtaposed response possed a significant point of interest so I inquired further as to where this belief stemmed. Admad proceeded to inform me that tobacco companies make a significant positive contribution to society through the funding and implementation of community programs a notion reiterated in the quote “money from the cigarette industry is a major source of tax revenue for Indonesian Government” (Adioetomo & Hendratno 2001; Aditama 2002; Yurekli & De Beyer 2000). These community programs included sporting clubs and opportunities with Sampoerna being a noticeable example. Admad also informed me of the educational benefits tobacco companies provide Indonesia students evident within the copious grants and opportunities tobacco companies provide particularly evident within Sampoerna University which offers grants up to $41,000 for its top students (The Jakarta Post 2018). These insights made me re-evaluate my perspective of the tobacco companies particularly in regards to the level of power big tobacco holds over Indonesian society evident within the indirect propaganda utilised throughout Indonesian society.

Sampoerna University
Sampoerna University – 2018

Following our discussion of the benefits tobacco companies provide for modern Indonesia I returned to the interview and inquired into Admad personal understanding of the risks associated with smoking. I began by posing the question “are you aware of what smoking does to the human body?” to which Admad responded, “smoking can make you sick”. Admad response surprised me specifically due to the blanket statement nature of the response which spurred my response “are you aware that smoking can cause cancer among other illnesses”.  Admad rebutted in surprise “really” a notion reiterated in by the world health organisation in the quote “The underestimation of tobacco risks by general populations has a high direct correlation with smoking rates” (WHO 2012). After Ahmad’s response, we began discussing the various risks and illness associated with smoking including emphysema as well as short-term effects including difficulty breathing and a reduced sense of taste. This lack of knowledge in regards to the understanding of smoking piqued my interest specifically due to the prevalence of tobacco education in Indonesia and the plethora of information available online. This insight inspired me to pursue an information-based campaign which highlighted the ill effect of smoking specifically the short-term implications of smoking in the hope these would be more relevant for young people.

Once the food had been placed on our table we halted the discussion. In summary, the discussion provided invaluable insights into the nature of the tobacco industry within Indonesian specifically the perception of Tobacco conglomerates. The interview also provided an insight into the level of understanding possessed by a tertiary student within Indonesia which would prove valuable in the conceptualisation and finalisation of my team’s final solution.


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