With a “67% prevalence of males aged 15 and above being smokers” (Prabandari & Dewi 2016) and tobacco companies being the “government’s largest source of revenue after oil, gas and timber, and the nation’s second largest employer after the government” (Reynolds 1999), it is clear how ingrained the tobacco industry has become within Indonesia. Even within the more remote city of Ambon, there are men waiting around whilst smoking or even smoking whilst driving, showing just how deeply smoking culture has seeped into their daily lives.
Upon exploring the surrounding area, I noticed was that there was always a small display of cigarettes on the front counter of the numerous small corner stores I saw. With cigarettes being displayed in plain sight, sometimes amongst food and snacks, the normalcy of cigarettes as a presence in day to day life as well as the ease in which cigarettes can be accessed became apparent.
As I walked further, I realised that the banners hanging in front of small stores were actually advertisements for cigarette brands. At first, I could only tell by the relatively small image of a person smoking and the 18+ symbol on the corners of the banner. From there, I started to pinpoint other tobacco advertisements throughout my walk. The advertisements were generally sleek and clean in design, and were often composed of eye-catching colours, such as red and white, which were eye-catching amongst the storefronts. Some featured cars or other imagery which suggest strength. Most contained English slogans, such as ‘Don’t Quit’ and ‘We are Stronger’, in bold fonts, associating the tobacco brands with empowerment and masculinity. The use of English and clean imagery helps solidify the idea that cigarettes are modern as well as global, leading smoking to be seen as ‘cool’.
Indonesia is the “only ASEAN member country that has not yet totally banned tobacco companies from advertising” which puts “young people at high exposure” (‘All ASEAN countries but Indonesia ban cigarette advertising’ 2017). In rural areas, small shops are “sponsored by cigarette companies, and they can put adverts anywhere” (Senthilingam 2017). Indonesian cigarette advertisements often feature “stereotypical images of ‘real’ men luxuriating in their masculinity and dominance”, constructing smoking as something that “celebrates both modernity and maleness” (Reynolds 1999). In a study conducted in rural Java, male Indonesian youths thought cigarettes portrayed an image of “’machismo’ and ‘self-confidence’” (Ng, Weinehall & Ohman 2006), making them susceptible to the marketing tactics of tobacco companies. They could “easily name their favourite cigarette brands and describe the advertisements for them” and “if a new brand was introduced in an advertisement, they were curious to try it” (Ng, Weinehall & Ohman 2006), highlighting the significant impact and success of these advertisements on Indonesian youth. With adverts just about everywhere in Ambon, it can be seen that widespread use of tobacco advertisements are a contributing factor in reinforcing and encouraging the already existing smoking culture.
Prabandari, Y.S. & Dewi, A. 2016, ‘How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students’, Glob Health Action, vol. 9, viewed 16 January 2019, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5005365/>.
Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control 1999, vol. 8, viewed 16 January 2019, <https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/8/1/85.citation-tools>.
‘All ASEAN countries but Indonesia ban cigarette advertising’ 2017, The Jakarta Post, 25 July, viewed 16 January 2019, <https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/07/25/all-asean-countries-but-indonesia-ban-cigarette-advertising.html>.
Senthilingam, M. 2017, ‘Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic’, CNN, 31 August, viewed 16 January 2019, <https://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/30/health/chain-smoking-children-tobacco-indonesia/index.html>.
Ng, N., Weinehall, L. & Ohman, A. 2006, ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’, Health Education Research, vol. 22, viewed 16 January 2019, <https://academic.oup.com/her/article/22/6/794/640787>.