BLOG A: The Power of Advertising

Although there are multiple factors contributing to the success of the tobacco industry in Indonesia, designers play a significant role in its success through the power of advertising. Indonesia has one of the highest rates of smokers in the world, selling over 315 billion cigarettes each year (Tjandra 2018). This explains why tobacco advertising in Indonesia is among the most aggressive and innovative in the world and is seen so predominantly around the country. Tobacco companies are politically and financially powerful because they are one of the largest sources of government revenue. As a result, there are few restrictions on tobacco marketing and advertising (Danardono et al. 2008), allowing for them to have complete control and freedom. The themes most commonly focused on in tobacco advertisements include control of emotions, smoking to enhance masculinity, smoking as a means to uphold traditional values while simultaneously emphasising modernity and globalisation (Danardono et al. 2008).

The major issue with tobacco advertising in Indonesia is the lack of awareness of the health risks. A recent study shows 80% of physicians practicing in Indonesia believed that smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day was not harmful for health (Haddock et al. 2007). Tobacco companies take advantage of this in their advertising (without explicitly saying so) by purposefully target a younger audience as 37% of the Indonesian population (approximately 100 million people) are under the age of 20 (Tjandra 2018). This is alarming as 76% of males aged 15 years and older are daily smokers (Tjandra 2018) which directly contributes to the estimation that the age-standardised mortality of respiratory tract cancer (primarily caused by smoking) in Indonesia among men is 68.5 per 100 000 (Haddock et al. 2007).

Video advertisement by the cigarette company Gudang Garam’s GG Mild targeting the younger demographic (GG Mild 2017).

Currently there is one restriction in place for tobacco advertising and promotion: they must only be played on TV and radio between the hours of 9:30pm and 5am (Tobacco Control Laws 2018). However this is not an effective measure as the tobacco companies are still able to sponsor large popular events and have thousands of billboards across the country. By placing stricter laws and eradicating tobacco advertisements all together like Australia, we can only assume it will help reduce the consumption of cigarettes in Indonesia. Though, the most effective way to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality is to increase the price of tobacco. Globally, evidence has shown that younger people and people with low incomes are more responsive to tobacco price increases (Adioetomo et al. 2008), hence why we have seen a decline in tobacco sales in higher paying income societies such as Australia. Currently, Kretek cigarettes (the most popular brand in Indonesia) range in price from Rp 300 ($0.07 AUD) for a single cigarette to Rp 23 500 ($3.56 AUD) for a pack of 16 (Danardono et al. 2008). To purchase the equivalent in Australia, a pack of 20 cigarettes would cost Rp 253 000 ($25 AUD) (Tobacco Blends 2000).


Adioetomo, S.M., Ahsan, A., Barber, S., Setyonaluri, D. 2008, Tobacco economics in Indonesia, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Paris.

Danardono, M., Ng, N., Nichter, M., Padmawati, R., Prabandari, Y., 2008, Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia, University of Arizona, Arizona.

GG Mild 2017, Iklan GG Mild 2017 Style of New Generation, Video Recording, YouTube, viewed 9 January 2019, <;.

Haddock, C., Lando, H., Ng, N., Nitcher, M., Mahardinata, N., Muramoto, M., Okah, F., Padmawati, R., Poston, W., Prabandari, Y., Pyle, S. 2007, ‘Physician assessment of patient smoking in Indonesia: a public health priority’, Tobacco Control, vol. 16, no. 3, pp.190-196.

Jha, P. & Chaloupka, F. 2000, Tobacco control in developing countries, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, News, The Conversation, Victoria, viewed 9 January 2019, <;.

Tobacco Blends 2000, Imported cigarettes, Victoria, viewed 9 January 2019, <;.

Tobacco Control Laws 2018, Legislation by country Indonesia, Washington, viewed 9 January 2019, <;.

2 thoughts on “BLOG A: The Power of Advertising

  1. It’s interesting how increasing the price of tobacco alone would have a better effect on consumers rather than the plain packaging initiative Australia introduced a while ago. Plain packaging could possibly work as well since countries like Indonesia promote the use of smoking on their cigarette packets and ads.

  2. Well written and interesting notes on the relationship between masculinity and smoking. Definitely agree with forming stricter laws on advertisements to reduce the consumption of tobacco.

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