BLOG POST C: Interview

To gain an unusual perspective into tobacco use and its surrounding health issues, full-time employer of Philip Morris international, Abdul Aziz Purnama Adi (2019, pers. Comm., 14 January), was interviewed. Aziz, as he prefers, distributes tobacco products throughout Indonesia and considers himself a casual smoker. Aziz argues for tobacco, asserting the product is harmless, and all health-issues said to surround cigarettes are merely the act of a conspiracy. Despite his positive views on smoking, further analysis and investigation could reveal several discrepancies in Aziz’s statements.

Aziz outlines tobacco as a form of “good medicine which helps to clear the mind.” He reinforces its positive qualities asserting that he is yet to meet anyone who’s health or wellbeing has been negatively affected by smoking. Although studies reveal “Tobacco kills 225,720 people each year” in Indonesia (World Health Organization 2018). His outlook is heavily influenced by the novel Membunuh Indonesia Konspirasi Global Penghancuran Kretek, Aziz explaining “I do not believe the graphic imagery on cigarette packets” nor that “health issues exist or are a direct cause of smoking full-time. Perhaps his fixed perspective is somewhat due to lack of knowledge, Aziz also mentioning that he does not remember receiving education in school about the impacts of smoking.

Conversely, Aziz recognizes tobaccos potential to be somewhat “harmful.” He explains that smoking ten cigarettes a day is the suitable amount, however, if someone was to consume any greater than this quantity, that is when it can become damaging. With regards to smoking more than ten a day, Aziz believes: “this is when it begins to control you, you become addicted” but cigarettes “are okay when you can control the tobacco, and it’s regulated.” He was quick to reinforce however that “the problem here is not the tobacco itself but the over and uncontrolled usage of it.” While he blatantly disregards tobacco as the cause of any health issues, it is odd that he opposes to smoking around children: “I’ll never smoke around children.” Why must he refrain himself from doing so if cigarettes do not cause any direct harm? Unable to admit the dangerous consequences associated with smoking, Aziz’s employer ironically can, their website promoting smoking as harmful: “We are dedicated to doing something very dramatic – we want to replace cigarettes with smoke-free products as fast as possible… we have more than 400 scientists, engineers, and technicians developing less harmful alternatives to cigarettes” (Philip Morris 2019). And while Aziz could aim to emulate his employer, recognizing the harm and moving towards a smoke-free future, perhaps the Philip Morris company could have the courtesy of completely eradicating themselves.

Left to right: Aziz, Marissa & Ady

BLOG C: Environment as an Influence

To gain further information on tobacco use in Indonesia, I consulted 25-year-old Abdul Aziz Purnama Adi (2019, pers. comm., 14 January), a full time employee for Philip Morris International distributing tobacco products across Indonesia. This discussion determined how an individual’s surrounding environment significantly influences and manipulates their views on tobacco.

Aziz was first exposed to cigarettes in the home when his mother, father and uncle would smoke around him inside the house. He himself began experimenting with smoking in Junior High School and became a regular smoker in college. This behaviour seems to be considered normal as he stated many other students also smoked, supporting the statistic that “nearly nine out of ten adult daily smokers started smoking before they were 18 years old” (Scott 2018). He claimed he didn’t receive any education on the detrimental impacts and consequences of smoking, however the punishment if caught smoking on school premises was expulsion. He does believe that children should be educated about how to control their use of tobacco.

In addition to Aziz’s home and school environment, he has been exposed to cigarettes through pro-tobacco advertisements saturating Indonesia. These advertisements are detrimental to individuals – especially youth – as they mislead them to believe cigarettes are not harmful to health. Tobacco companies take advantage of this in their advertising (without explicitly saying so) by purposefully target youth as 37% of the Indonesian population (approximately 100 million people) are under the age of 20 (Tjandra 2018). The power of these companies is made evident when Aziz claimed that the “graphic visuals on cigarette packaging is a conspiracy” and the presented health problems are not a result of smoking.

Now as an employee for Philip Morris International – one of the largest tobacco companies globally – Aziz has become a “casual” smoker to calm his mind. He claims the company does not force the employees to smoke, although the majority do. He sees no harm in working for the company and promoting tobacco products as he believes “smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day is a good amount,” which directly correlates and supports the statistic from a recent study that “80% of physicians practicing in Indonesia believed that smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day was not harmful for health” (Haddock et al. 2007).

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Abdul Aziz Purnama Adi (left of image).

References:

Haddock, C., Lando, H., Ng, N., Nitcher, M., Mahardinata, N., Muramoto, M., Okah, F., Padmawati, R., Poston, W., Prabandari, Y., Pyle, S. 2007, ‘Physician assessment of patient smoking in Indonesia: a public health priority’, Tobacco Control, vol. 16, no. 3, pp.190-196.

Scott, J.E. 2018, ‘17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health’, Tobacco Induced Diseases, vol. 16, pp. 178, viewed 13 January 2019, <http://www.tobaccoinduceddiseases.org/-8220-Little-Lungs-8221-using-digital-platforms-innovative-creative-and-audience,84281,0,2.html&gt;.

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, News, The Conversation, Victoria, viewed 9 January 2019, <http://theconversation.com/disneyland-for-big-tobacco-how-indonesias-lax-smoking-laws-are-helping-next-generation-to-get-hooked-97489&gt;.