Post D: Tobacco culture in Ambon

Tobacco advertising in Ambon is something that is glamorised much more than what we are traditionally used to seeing in Sydney. Aggressively pro smoking adverts marketing to create a strong appeal for their products, and interestingly enough the advertising prevalent in Ambon City was quite plainly pitching to men. This theory was supported after embarking on my self guided tour (See below map) of the city as well as supported research.

Hand drawn map of self guided city tour

With it’s large population Indonesia ranks fifth among countries with the highest tobacco consumption globally (Achadi et al., 2004). However the number of female smokers across Indonesia is considerably low in comparison to male smokers (Barraclough, 1999). Indonesia’s national household health survey found that in 2013, 57% of men were active smokers and that they are far more likely to be smokers than women (Rosemary, 2018), with only 1% to 3% of women being active smokers or likely to smoke (Nitcher et al., 2008).

The Tobacco companies are politically and financially powerful within Indonesia because they are one of the largest sources of government revenue (Reynolds, 1999). As a result, there are very few advert restrictions on tobacco marketing (Nitcher et al., 2008). Not only that but study shows kretek tobacco (Cigarettes made with a blend of tobacco, cloves and other flavours) companies represent themselves as supporters of Indonesian national identity (Nitcher et al., 2008), which further deeply embeds them into Indonesian and Ambonese culture.

Upon the self guided tour in which I embarked on multiple different modes of transportation (Bus, Car, and Foot). The research acquired across the modes of travel were consolidated and left very clear findings, a tally method (See Figure 1) was used to record three main items – Adverts Relating to Tobacco, Male Smokers, and finally Female Smokers.

Figure 1, Counter App (Koithra, 2019).

Tobacco advertisement slogans that were noted on the self guided city tour include;
Sampoerna’s “Go ahead”, L.A. Bold “We are stronger”, Gudang Garam “Real men have taste, test your limits go international”, and lastly Surya “Pro never quit”.
Other popularised tobacco brands include Djarum Super MLD and Malboro. 

In Ambon the advertising themes that were identified in tobacco marketing include smoking to enhance ones sense of masculinity whilst also highlighting modernity and globalisation ((Ng et al., 2007). Common company adverts for example Surya, it’s local branding are mostly coupled with very overcompensated images representing ‘manliness’, most commonly the “Pro never quit’. as seen in figure 2, it displays a man clearly expressing his strength and this image is being linked to smoking the advertised brand.

Figure 2, Suraya Smoking Advertisment (Koithra, 2019).

Another feature to note is that all these advertisements shared the exact same caution message of “peringatan: merokok membunuhmu 18+” which translates simply to warning: smoking kills you 18+”. This coupled with an image of a man smoking and several faint floating skulls, eluding to smoking being a deadly trait. Refer to Figure 3 below.

Figure 3, Caution message (Koithra 2019).

More than just male targeted tobacco advertisements, in local supermarkets there are products which very plainly accomodate for and support the smoking demographic within Ambon. Products such as ‘FREZZA, After Cigar Antispetic Mouth Spray – reduce bad breath caused by smoking’. Other products include a wide spectrum of cigarette accessories such as lighters, cigar cutters, and smoking car accessories. All which support and accomodate the manifesting culture of tobacco use in Ambon.

Foodmart Ambon Plaza (Koithra, 2019).


Catherine, R. (1999). Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”, BMJ Journals,viewed 16 January 2019.

Barraclough, S. (1999). Women and tobacco in Indonesia, BMJ Journals, viewed 16 January 2019.

Rosemary, R. (2018). Forbidden Smoke, Inside Indonesia, viewed 16 January 2019.

Nitcher, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Prabandari, Y., Nitcher, M. (2008). Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia, BMJ Journals, viewed 16 January 2019.

Achadi, A., Soerojo, W., Barber, S. (2004). The relevance and prospects of advancing tobacco control in Indonesia, Science Direct, viewed 17 January 2019.

Ng, N., Weinehall, L., Ohman, A. (2007). ’If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’-Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking. NCBI, viewed 17 January 2019.

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