BLOG D: Tobacco by the Tonne

“Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded pieces of waste worldwide. It is estimated that 148705 tonnes of butts and packs wind up as toxic trash in Indonesia annually” (The Tobacco Atlas 2019) due to the country selling over 315 billion cigarettes (Tjandra 2018) and disposing of the same amount. This disruptive culture of tobacco disposal has been further explored through undertaking visual ethnography in Ambon.

Within Ambon’s city centre, it was discovered that approximately one quarter of waste came from cigarette butts and packaging (refer to figures one). The littering of cigarettes is seen most predominantly in the busiest parts of the city, around small shops and market stalls where people were selling the cigarettes (refer to figure two). Citizens disposed of their cigarettes by dropping them onto the ground or chucking them into waterways (refer to figure three and four). When moving east of the city centre towards the DRPD Provinsi Maluku, known for being a wealthier part of town, there was less cigarette disposal on the streets although some cigarette packets and butts could still be found outside of the Provinsi and along the adjacent streets.


Figure One: Close up evidence of rubbish in Ambon’s waterways, where cigarette butts and packets amount for approximately 25%.


Figure Two: Mapping the prevalence of cigarette disposal in Ambon.


Figure Three: Evidence of large amounts of cigarette butts disposed in Ambon street drains.


Figure Four: Evidence of large amounts of waste in Ambon’s waterways (Elliott 2019).

From these observations, speculations were made that cigarette disposal is much more prominent in the city centre as it is bustling with people in comparison to the quieter wealthier east. In addition, the social culture of smoking on the streets in large groups was only seen in the city centre and hence created more physical waste from tobacco products. However, bins for general waste and cigarettes are inconveniently placed and extremely hard to find around the city streets, the only spotting being in the centre of Merdeka Field (refer to figure five). This may conclude why smokers choose to drop their discarded cigarettes on the streets instead of putting them in provided bins.


Figure Five: Sighting of bins to dispose waste in Merdeka Field.

There are many solutions Indonesia could adopt to try and change smoker’s behaviour towards cigarette butt deposition. One way entails enforcing anti-littering laws as they have proved to be successful in countries such as the U.S. (Barnes 2011). In addition, imposing cigarette butt abatement fees on each pack of cigarettes would help to reduce the number of people buying cigarettes – as evidence has shown that younger people and people with low incomes are more responsive to tobacco price increases (Adioetomo et al. 2008) – and hence reduce the amount of waste. But simply, adding more bins around the city – specifically for cigarettes – would significantly benefit the detrimental tobacco dumping culture as “cigarette butts are [a] toxic, hazardous waste” (Barnes 2011) that contribute to the pollution of the beautiful ocean, rivers, drains and streets of Indonesia which in turn affect individuals health and the environment.


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

Barnes, R.L. 2011, ‘Regulating The Disposal of Cigarette Butts as Toxic Hazardous Waste’, Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education, vol. 1, no. 20, pp. i45-i48.

Elliott, J. 2019, Gotta Love Your Phone Disconnecting From The Drone Mid Flight and Having to Fly Blind 500m to the Top of your Hotel, Instagram, viewed 16 January 2019, <;.

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, <;.

The Tobacco Atlas 2019, Indonesia, American Cancer Society Inc. and Vital Strategies, viewed 15 January, <;.

BLOG POST D: Targeting the Smokers of Tomorrow

The tobacco industry is ingrained within the daily lives and culture of Indonesia, and you only need to take a short walk around the city of Ambon, Maluku to see perspectives on tobacco are very much different to those in Australia. Advertising aims to positively reinforce the act of smoking, targeting young males through themes of masculinity and status. A 2013 survey found that “99.7% of youths in Indonesia reported seeing tobacco advertisements on television… and 76% in print media … in their lifetime” (Indonesia Bebas Rokok 2013). So how may Indonesia’s loose tobacco control be creating an addicted next generation?

Having researched the Plain Packaging of Australia’s cigarette’s, the reasoning behind the transition and the success it brought, it was a step back in time to see the stores of Ambon stocked up with ‘Marlboro’s’ and ‘LA Bold’ (figure 1), logo’s and branding full spread and the warning’s printed small. When analysing the success of the Plain Packaging, Cancer Council Victoria Researcher, Professor Wakefield stated, “The large graphic warnings on cigarette packs put young people off, with the appeal of cigarette packs and brands decreasing significantly” (2015). Walking around the streets of Ambon, not only did the sheer amount of cigarette vendors become clears (refer to figure 2), but the branded packs revealed: “tobacco producers’ strategies for building associations and identification” (Scheffel and Lund 2013). By having these branded packages around, encouraged Indonesian youth to become associated with them, to help build status and a sense of masculinity.


(Figure 1: Vendors and examples of cigarette packets in Indonesia, a very different sight to those in Australia)

Map 1.jpg

(Figure 2: A map from my walk around the local streets of Ambon, marking the Tobacco Advertising of the Area).

The printed adverts that saturate the Ambon landscape are no different, with a clear target of the young male. This was seen to be particularly strong in areas with a low socio-economy, with ads such as figure 3 appearing every 30 meters along some streets on small kiosks, with “owners provided with cash payments and art supplies for purposes of decoration” (Nichter, Padmawati, et al. 2008).


(Figure 3: Confronting Advertisement that encourages Smoking )

Images of martial artists, rock climbers and other ‘role models’ cover these large banners, tapping into two major themes of tobacco advertising as identified by Nicheter, Padmawati, et al:

  1. “Smoking as a way to enhance one’s masculinity” (2008)
  2. “Youth masculinity” (2008).

It became clear that there was a theme of targeting the young through positive reinforcement. Prabandari and Dewi confirm this, concluding within a study of cigarette advertising on 2115 Indonesian High school students that “cigarette ads were perceived as encouraging youths to smoke” and “smoking status was consistently associated with the perception of cigarette ads targeted at youths” (Prabandari and Dewi 2016).

On my walk, I, unfortunately, discovered that this aggressive advertising seemed to occur far more within the lower socio-economic parts of Ambon, with areas of greater development seeming to have less confronting, and more spread out advertising (see figure 4). However, despite reports of “initiation beginning early with over a quarter of urban and rural 10-year-old boys already smoking” (Reynolds 1999), I didn’t see any male smokers under the age of 20.


(Figure 4: Example of less aggressive advertising)

Overall, a simple walk around Ambon shifted my perspective of the nature of Tobacco culture within Indonesia. I had come from a nation where promotion of such substances is banned, to a place where “cigarette advertising and promotional messages are targeted at youths” (Prabandari and Dewi 2016), and brand covered packs help create status. Tobacco companies are targeting young males, the source of their future revenue, and if nothing changes and no regulations are put on advertising it seems like that future is almost certainly true.



Wakefield, Melanie 2015, Australia’s plain packaging laws successful, studies show, ABC News, Sydney, viewed January 9th 2019, <,-studies-show/6331736>

Prabadnari, Y and Dewi, A 2016, How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students, viewed January 17th 2019, <>

Indonesia Bebas Rokok 2013, Tobacco advertising and sponsorship, viewed January 16th 2019, <>

Scheffel, J and Lund, I 2013, The impact of cigarette branding and plain packaging on perceptions of product appeal and risk among young adults in Norway: A between-subjects experimental survey, viewed January 18th 2019,<>

Nichter, M, Padmawati, S, et al. 2008, Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia, viewed January 17th 2019, <>

BLOG POST D: Tobacco advertising: lower-class vs upper-class

Tobacco advertisements are known to saturate Indonesia’s environment (Danardono 2008). Research continues to validate this statement, sources asserting “tobacco advertising is everywhere –at roadside stalls, on billboards, music concerts, even sporting events” (The Guardian 2018). While this proved correct within the city centre of Ambon, and lower-economic areas, it was wondered if this followed suit within regions considered to be more upper-class.

The initial exploration of central Ambon and the lower-class areas established the inescapability of tobacco advertisements. From main streets to alleyways, houses to moving cars, the exposure to these adverts were inevitable (refer to figure 1). Shockingly situated outside of homes, hospitals and down the streets of schools, statements made by The Jakarta Post were reinforced: “[they] can be found anywhere, including near schools and hospitals” (The Jakarta Post 2017). While evident within the city centre, the ads were also prominent when driving through somewhat more impoverished areas located further out. This was confirmed through the 187 tobacco advertisements spotted from point A to point B (refer to figure 2).

Figure 1: initial exploration of Ambon city
Figure 2: 187 adverts witnessed from City hotel (A) to Natsepa Beach (B)

To investigate further and to draw comparisons, another exploration was undertaken moving more towards the suburbs of Ambon and houses of greater wealth. This additional ethnography allowed for better interpretation of Ambon’s tobacco culture, and insights into the cigarette advertisements’ presence concerning the ‘upper-class’ areas. Motioning uphill east, buried deep in the plantation, more luxurious houses came to into view (refer to Figure 3). Once out of the city’s centre and immersed within this new ‘lusher’ region, the once-inescapable ads almost felt as though they had become escapable. The ads appeared much less prominently, only witnessing a mere 5 (refer to figure 4). In comparison to the city centre inundated with tobacco advertisements, five seemed somewhat more tolerable. The littering of cigarette packets, while still evident, had also reduced immensely.

Figure 3: Houses of greater wealth

Figure 4: exploration of upper-class reigon

Exposure to these two different areas provoked many questions and speculations. Perhaps there were fewer ads in this higher socio-economic region purely because there was lesser foot traffic. The vocational education and government buildings situated within the area could also be contributing factors (refer to Figure 4). Educational facilities are to be considered smoke-free zones (The Tobacco Atlas 2018) while the Mayor of Ambon has enforced rules of his own to eradicate smoking from government premises’. Regardless of these assumptions, it is feasible that this insight found could be attributable to strategic purposes. Advertising in the lower socio-economic areas would prove of much more value to tobacco companies, studies demonstrating that Indonesian “males and older adolescents, from poorer wealth… and living in certain provinces” have much “higher odds of smoking” than those of higher wealth (Kusumawardani et al. 2018). A study outside of Indonesia also asserts that “low-income people smoke more than higher-income people” (World Health Organization 2011), while evidence specific to Indonesia reveals “people with low incomes are more responsive to tobacco price increases” (Adioetomo et al. 2008) — hence the high-volume adverts within the city centre. The lowest income group in Indonesia spends “15% of their total expenses on tobacco” (World Health Organization 2004), perhaps validating the assumption of as to why tobacco companies exploit the lower socio-economic areas. In response to these findings, however, throughout the exploration of Ambon, it is important to note that the presence of cigarettes was not eliminated in the higher-class areas, ads, and packaging still somewhat evident.


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

Clark, J., Diefenderfer, C., Hammer, S. & Hammer, T. 2003, ‘Estimating the area of Virginia’, Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications, vol. 3, viewed 6 October 2009,< >.

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

Kusumawardani N, Tarigan I, Suparmi, Schlotheuber A. 2018, ‘Socio-economic, demographic and geographic correlates of cigarette smoking among Indonesian adolescents: results from the 2013 

Indonesian Basic Health Research (RISKESDAS) survey’. Glob Health Action. Vol. 1, viewed 16 January 2019, <>.

The Guardian 2018, How children around the world are exposed to cigarette advertising, The Guardian, London, viewed 15 January 2019, <>.

The Jakarta Post 2017, All ASEAN countries but Indonesia ban cigarette advertising, Jakarta, viewed 16 January 2019, <>.

The Tobacco Atlas 2018, Current Policy in Indonesia, United States, viewed 16 January 2019, <>.

World Health Organization 2011, Systematic review of the link between tobacco and poverty, WHO Publications, Geneva, Switzerland. 

World Health Organization 2004, Tobacco and poverty: A vicious circle, WHO Publications, Geneva, Switzerland. 

POST D: Advertised Destruction

Throughout these past 6 days in Ambon I have noticed a large contrast between Australian and Indonesian cigarette advertisement. For this specific blog post I have taken the time to observe and document all the cigarette advertisements I have identified on a 2.8 KM walk around the city of Ambon. At first, I didn’t notice any cigarette advertisement at all until I went into a store and saw the branded cigarette packages. I discovered that the advertisements had been in my face the whole time and the Ambon city streets are covered with them, most streets on my walk had a different type of advertisements every 15 metres (refer to the hand drawn map below). As seen in the below images the advertisement comes in many shapes and sizes, and at a glance don’t even look like tobacco advertisement.

Different types of Tobacco Advertisement in Ambon streets (BAWDEN 2019)
Minimalistic Map of Tobacco Advertisement in Ambon City (Bawden 2019)

I was so shocked to see how direct some of the advertisements were. As seen in the images below, you can see that the tobacco company have designed the ads to be so minimalistic yet so powerful. Some of the advertisements literally say, “Go ahead”, telling people to smoke and reassuring them that it is okay to smoke. The one that shocked me the most was “Never Quit” by Surya PRO, this to me is so wrong in many ways, I really do hope that the Indonesian government follows the Australian government and makes it illegal to advertise anything related to tobacco.

“Go Ahead” Advertisement (Bawden 2019)

In 2012, Indonesia set a new tobacco advertisement regulation, limiting the advertising, promotion and sponsorship controls (Swandew and Freeman 2017). But as seen in these photographs the advertisements are still everywhere and very direct. What also surprised me is the percentage of the advertisement display that needs to be a warning, for a lot of the images it was hard to see the warning sign and for some the warning did not even look like a warning. Another thing I found very interesting on my walk was that in one of the main streets of the city where the schools and banks were in, there was no advertisement for tobacco and no were tobacco was sold other then an old lady with a basket of cigarette packets at a bus stop. Overall this observation session was a big culture shock for me and I am glad to be a part of a large mural painting in the centre of the city with anti-tobacco advertisement.

Small Waring Sign on Advertisement (Bawden 2019)

Astuti PAS and Freeman B 2017, “It is merely a paper tiger.” Battle for increased tobacco advertising regulation in Indonesia, viewed 17 January 2019, < >.
Reynolds, Catherine 1999, Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”, viewed 17 January 2019,

Fariz Nurwidya , Fumiyuki Takahashi , Hario Baskoro , Moulid Hidayat , Faisal Yunus , Kazuhisa Takahashi 2014, Strategies for an effective tobacco harm reduction policy in Indonesia, viewed 18 January 2019, <>.