POST D: Smoke, Eat, Drink, Repeat

Walking along the streets of Ambon, it appears one aspect of Tobacco culture is its association with positive and pleasurable experiences. This ethnographic study was effective because it encourages participation by the researcher, getting involved, seeing what life is like from the point of view of the subject (Coyne 2006).

Locally, I observed (as recorded in ‘Map My Walk Ambon 2019’ below), mostly sedentary smokers – groups of men sitting in alleyways, shopkeepers minding their market stores and drivers both old and young. They appeared to be enjoying it. Perhaps because deep breathing, even when taking in cigarette smoke, can be physiologically relaxing (as is sitting back, socialising, or having a warm drink). These pleasant things get strongly associated with the effect of the cigarette itself (Quit Tasmania 2013).


map my walk 1
(Map My Walk Ambon 2019)
(Men Smoking 2019)
(Men Smoking 2 2019)

This could also be said for the association of one’s identity with smoking. The cigarette is a symbol of manhood and conveys messages such as, in the words of the tobacco company Philip Morris, “I am no longer my mother’s child,” and “I am tough” (Jarvis 2004). There was not one street I walked down that I did not see a pro-tobacco advertisement using themes that are likely to be very attractive to young people, such as humour, adventure, bravery and success. (Tjandra 2018). It’s interesting to note that the dominant banner colours, red and white, are the colours of the Indonesian flag. They are considered the sacred colours of the nation as they represent the sacrifice and the struggle of the people striving toward their independence. (Asimonoff 2016). Simply through colour, smoking is now associated with freedom and courage which the people of Ambon could value.

(Young Man Smoking 2019)
(Go Ahead Banner 2019)
(Pro We Are Stronger Poster 2019)
(Pro Never Quit Banner 2019)
(Pro We Are Stronger Banner 2019)

Nationally, the sponsoring and social marketing of music festivals by tobacco companies targets young people to associate smoking with music, creativity, and self-expression. Even though they are 18+ events, Instagram eliminates the boundary exposing the sponsorship to all social media users worldwide. Philip Morris International created an online social networking community for A brand enthusiasts and future customers. At registrants can click on links and find activities where they can learn, meet, create and sell creative products and get involved in projects or challenges (Astuti & Freeman 2018).

It’s evident that Tobacco companies have successfully carried out Craig Lefebvre’s marketing model of scope – co‐creation, conversations, communities and markets; design – honouring people, radiating value, engaging service and enhancing experiences; and value space – dignity, hope, love and trust (Lefebvre 2013), which has resulted in a tobacco empire. In fact, on a global scale, Indonesia is known as the ‘tobacco’s industry Disneyland’ and is the only Asian country that has not signed the ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) (Tjandra 2018).

Strategically, tobacco companies have embedded smoking culture so deeply into society that it has rewired people’s brains to think positively about it and to not even question it. It’s a social norm.




Asimonoff 2016, Colours in Indonesia, Transparent Language, weblog, New Hampshire, viewed 17 January 2019, <>.

Astuti, P. & Freeman, B. 2018, Protecting young Indonesian hearts from tobacco, The Conversation, viewed 17 January 2019, <>.

Astuti, P. & Freeman, B. 2018, Tobacco company in Indonesia skirts regulation, uses music concerts and social media for marketing, The Conversation, 17 January 2019, <>.

Chan, M. 2019, Go Ahead Banner, photograph, Ambon, Indonesia.

Chan, M. 2019, Map My Walk Ambon, Sketch, Ambon, Indonesia.

Chan, M. 2019, Men Smoking, photograph, Ambon, Indonesia.

Chan, M. 2019, Men Smoking 2, photograph, Ambon, Indonesia.

Chan, M. 2019, Pro Never Quit Banner, photograph, Ambon, Indonesia.

Chan, M. 2019, Pro We Are Stronger Banner, photograph, Ambon, Indonesia.

Chan, M. 2019, Pro We Are Stronger Poster, photograph, Ambon, Indonesia.

Coyne, R. 2006, Creative practice and design-led research, Research Methods, viewed 17 January 2019,<>.

Jarvis, M. 2004, ‘Why people smoke’, The British Medical Journal, vol 328, viewed 17 January 2019, <>.

Lefebvre, C. 2012, ‘Transformative social marketing: co‐creating the social marketing discipline and brand’, Journal of Social Marketing, vol. 2 , no. 2, viewed 17 January <>.

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, The Conversation, viewed 17 January 2019, <>.

Quitline. 2013, Stress and Smoking, Quit Tasmania, viewed 17 January 2019, <>.




Blog D: Tobacco culture is a part of Ambon’s colour palette

As a designer, we are taught to find the beauty in everything around us. When exploring a new place; we, like any other; take in the culture, the people, and the natural surroundings of our environment. But what makes us different, is that as designers, we also find the charm in the little things – a beautifully typographic sign perhaps, or in my case; a colour palette.

map blog d

Map of Ambon with GPS coordinates of the places where each Pantone was found – Coordinates on a map share a simplistic beauty with hexadecimal or RGB codes of Pantones

When moving around Ambon, I was so distracted by the beauty of the city that I almost missed the excessive displays of Tobacco advertisements. There was this unnerving synonymy between the colours of the advertisements and their seamless hosts (such as a main road fence, or on the wall of someone’s home) (Figure 1e.), so much so, that the distinction between an advertisement and the norm, was blurred.

Picture_w_pantones_Blog D.jpg

Figure 1. – Tobacco advertisements, packaging and practices also share similar colours with it’s surroundings.

It made me wonder why there was no indiscretion present like there was in Australia. It was almost, as though Tobacco was a culture that blended into the Pantones of Ambon so well (Figure 2.), that the dangerous effects of Tobacco was considered similarly to another road rule in Indonesia; present – but not acknowledged.

colours of ambon pantones_blog d

Figure 2. – Each Pantone is found from more than one place within Ambon. Each colour is derived from a snapshot of that area. These are the colours of Ambon.

Why is Tobacco culture so normalised here in Ambon? How could, not only the advertisements, but also the littered packaging (Figure 1g.) – blend into the landscape so seamlessly, that myself (as a non-smoker), would think it as typical, or even conventional?

In a report on anti-tobacco legislation, investigative journalist Mathew Myers highlighted one reason why the industry could sit so coherently in the Indonesian market. “Indonesia is the perfect example of what happens when you let the industry do whatever it wants to market to young people and the government does nothing to counteract it, it’s a deadly combination.” (Harris, Meyersohn, 2011) In conjunction with such a lax government legislation, the excessive distribution and affordability of cigarettes (Tjahjono, 2017) in Indonesia, painted a brief insight into why this norm was so outwardly accepted.

In Ambon, the effects of this normalcy, were hard to find, but were unquestionably present. Due to it’s location, the city’s coastline masked the effects of air pollution that smoking attributes to (WHO, 2015), in comparison to big Indonesian cities such as Jakarta. However, lethal second-hand smoking (Vital Strategies, pp.22, 2018) was still evident in the markets, on public transport, and even next to food carts as people enjoyed their Soto Ayam. Studies have also shown that the placement of Tobacco advertising in close proximity to schools around Ambon, share similarities with other cities such as Semarang, and that these environmental determinants are usually the biggest factors for first-time and adolescent smokers (Clerq, Haryanti, Maes, Smet, Winarno, 1999).

Looking at a city’s colours shares a similarity with exploring a major issue like Tobacco use. A person can view the exact same colour, and see it differently, just like understanding the different facets that come with combatting the issue of Tobacco in Ambon.

| References

Boseley, S. Collyns, D. Dhillon, A. Lamb, K. 2018. ‘How children around the world are exposed to cigarette advertising’, Tobacco: A deadly business, The Guardian. Accessed on the 16th January 2019,


Clerq L.D. Haryanti K. Maes L. Smet B. Winarno R.D. 1999. ‘Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, pp. 186-191, BMJ Journals. Accessed on the 16th January 2019,


Harris, D. Meyersohn, J. 2011. ‘From age 2 to 7: Why are children smoking in Indonesia?’, ABC News, Accessed on the 16th January 2019,


Senthilingam, M. 2017. ‘Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic’ CNN, Accessed on the 16th January 2019,


Tjahjono, T. 2017. ‘How smoking becomes so cool in Indonesia’, Global Indonesian voices. Accessed on the 16th January 2019,


Vital Strategies. 2018. ‘The Tobacco Atlas’, Sixth Edition, The American Cancer Society Inc. Accessed on the 16th January 2019


World Health Organisation. 2015. ‘Tobacco Control in Indonesia’, South-East Asian Region. Accessed on the 16th January 2019,


Post D: Tobacco’s Infiltration in Ambon

China, India and Indonesia, the three leading countries with the highest numbers of smokers are the main targets for large tobacco companies (Nawi N. et al), some of which were frequently seen on the streets of Ambon such as Lucky Strike (light) , Marlboro (Red), Dunhill (mild), Sampoerna (A mild), Djarum Super Mild and L.A Bold. Interestingly enough out of the brands mentioned the most evident in terms of size of billboards and posters were Indonesian. Tobacco plays a huge role in the Indonesian lifestyle and culture, The industry supplies around 10% of all Indonesian tax revenue and employs 2.5 million workers (Nathalia Tjandra, 2018). 

According to Patu Astuti and Becky Freeman Sampoerna is one of the largest tobacco companies operating in Indonesia which has systematically linked a music concert series SoundrenAline, who not only promotes smoking at events but also has reached social media via the hashtag trend, the obvious target audience being the youth to encourage and associate smoking to “music, creativity and self expression” (Astuti, Freeman, 2018) An example of this being the audience were encouraged by the performers and emcee to “go ahead people” which is a popular ‘A’ company (Sampoerna A Mild) tagline for their cigarettes. Upon meeting the mayor of the city Richard Louhanapessy, he came to a decision to refuse all funding from tobacco companies for the city’s music festivals and events. While seeking to become the official city of music through UNESCO will this be possible with the lack of funding and the possibility of little to no music events in the coming future? 

(Dagher, 2019)

Chris McCall interviews 47 year old Yogykartan resident Sambudiono who claims to have smoked since high school, trying to quit once but couldn’t go through with it. Many others like Sambudiono will experience the same struggle if advertisements are not made illegal. (Chris McCall, 2014)

“Like most smokers, Sambudiono does not think he is influenced by cigarette advertising, although he sees it all the time and he has been smoking since he was about 15 years old.” – Chris McCall, 2014

The first walk-about I completed was during midday which spanned the suburbs hidden along side the river up until the Jembatan Merah Putih bridge. Regardless of area, house, apartment building or grocery store there was a consistent presence of tobacco advertisements within the communities. While observing I tracked the amount of posters per alleyway or street, amount of smokers (male/female) and whether the smokers were indoors or outdoors. Many of the posters and banners were used as material for shelters, matts and even table cloths, I think these are just some of the few ways tobacco companies are physically infiltrating Ambon’s streets. Although there has been some initiatives to reduce advertisements and smoking in public areas it is not enough, the city of Ambon facilitates smokers instead of deterring them from smoking


  • Nawi Ng L., Weinehall A.Ohman, 20 Sep 2006, ‘If I don’t Smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking Health Education Research’, Volume 22, Issue 6, 1 December 2007, Pages 794–804, Viewed 15 Jan 2019.
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