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, <>

One thought on “BLOG POST D: Targeting the Smokers of Tomorrow

  1. A very interesting blog post about the culture jamming in Ambon, Indonesia. This blog post has made me question the ethics of the designers and industry at hand. Do they understand the implications of what they’ve done and do they even care? Manipulating youth is a powerful tool and it is sad to think the that billions of dollars spent on these advertisements could have gone towards improving the low socio-economic areas that you witnessed on your walk rather than discriminating health and creating more waste.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s