Tobacco smoking is serious health problem in Indonesia with its own idiosyncrasies in Ambon. Through local observations, this post will examine the issue of second-hand smoking and its impact on children and youth on the island.


Almost half of all Indonesian households have a family member who smokes, meaning children are first introduced to cigarettes through second-hand exposure. According to the GYTS, 57% of students in Java are exposed to cigarettes in their homes and 60% in public spaces (World Health Organisation 2014). In a similar way, Figure 1 captures the normal practice of smoking inside or around the house as school children pass by. As a communal space for students, market vendors and motorcycles the exposure to second-hand smoke is relatively high in this area.  This is also due to the convergence of work and living spaces that is apparent in low to middle-class areas viewed on the map.

The unconscious teaching of smoking behaviours to children is another striking observation of Ambon. In Java, the factors of high parental approval and low control over household spaces have the largest impact on youth smoking choices (Nichter, Padmawati & Nawi, 2010). In Figure 2, three boys play near a neighbourhood stall, gazing upon the cigarette display. Further observation found that groups of children would often play in the alleyways with smokers nearby. Since Ambon is a city rebuilding itself after civil war (Encyclopedia of World Cultures 2016), many low to middle income families appear work late hours with minimal supervision over their children. Further research also found that if women find tobacco smoke uncomfortable, it is preferable to avoid the conflict involved in asking someone to refrain (Nichter, Padmawati & Nawi 2010). This desire to maintain peace and harmony is a mindset ingrained in Ambon after the devastating effects of a civil war.

The final stage of observation is the presence of youth smokers in Ambon. According to Nawi, Smoking plays an important role in making friends, finding solidarity and feeling confident (Nawi, Weinehall & Öhman, 2007).  Figure 3 shows one of many young male smokers walking home from school. Further observations found that smoking was more visible at night and in larger groups at nearby park. This reaffirms smoking as an attractive social activity for youth in Ambon, particularly in open and quieter spaces.


For the fight against tobacco smoking to be productive, it is important to observe the unique power balances, social interactions and environments that exist Ambon. By remaining sensitive to these nuances, the dangers of a biased or blanket approach is avoided.


Encyclopedia of World Cultures 2016, Ambonese, Website, viewed 15 January 2019,>.

Girik, A.A., Sukartini, N.M, Saptutyningsih, E. 2018, ‘Smoking Behaviour and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from Indonesian Household’, Signifik Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 233 – 246.

Nawi, Ng, Weinehall, L., Öhman, A. 2007, ‘If I Don’t Smoke, I’m not a Real Man – Indonesian Teenage Boys’ Views About Smoking’, Health Education Research, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 794 – 804.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, R.S, Nawi, Ng. 2010, ‘Developing a Smoke Free Household Initiative: An Indonesian Case Study’, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, vol. 89, no. 4, pp. 578 – 581.

Semba, R.D., Campbell, A.A, Sun, K., De Pee, S. Akhter, R., Hyun Rah, J., Kraemer, K., Bloem. W.B. 2011, ‘Paternal Smoking is Associated with Greater Food Insecurity Among Poor Families in Rural Indonesia’, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 618-623.

World Health Organisation 2014, Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) Indonesian Report 2014, Online PDF, viewed 16 January 2019, <>.

World Health Organisation 2018, Factsheet 2018 Indonesia, Online PDF, viewed 15 January 2019,>.


  1. A really informative post about how smoking affects children in Ambon 🙂
    The photography is great too! I didn’t know that children would be left without parent supervision throughout most of the day, its a new perspective.

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