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. 

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