Ninik, 25 years-old is a general practitioner in Ambon, who agrees that a significant portion of the Ambonese population are habitual smokers (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). Although, an insufficient amount of time in the 4 years of medical college in Indonesia is devoted to the harms of tobacco (Prabandari 2015), Ninik is fully aware of the effects and actively persuades the people around her to refrain from smoking. Ninik believes that the reason why Ambonese men smoke is to release stress, especially while they are working, causing it to become an addictive and detrimental habit.
She suggests that people often start smoking in junior high school, around the age of 14 and continue to the practice for their whole lives. In Australia, a customer must be at least 18 years of age with valid identification to purchase cigarettes (Youth Law Australia 2018). I therefore asked if there was a similar age limit imposed on buying cigarettes in Indonesia. Ninik responded with no, as children frequently buy cigarettes for their parents, shopkeepers thus do not question children of their motives for purchasing cigarettes. Prabandari concurs, stating that the initiation of smoking in Indonesia begins at a young age, with 18% even reporting to have begun between the ages of 10 and 14 (Prabandari 2015).
Although most smokers in Indonesia are male and it is commonly held that females do not smoke, a few women do take up the practice (Barraclough 1999). When questioned whether women smoke, Ninik however answered “not really” and “not at all” (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). This is because Ninik believes that Muslims see smoking as a “useless thing” that they should not attempt (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). After subsequent research, I discovered that the use of tobacco for Islamic believers is haram, forbidden (Huda 2018). Despite that, many Muslims still smoke as the opinion that smoking is haram is still moderately new and thus not all Muslims have adopted it as a cultural norm (Huda 2018).
Furthermore, Ninik also stressed the detrimental effects of second-hand smoking, which is worse than primary smoking. This is a serious issue as the harm of second-hand smoke is little recognised within Indonesia (Permitasari 2018), resulting in men regularly smoking in enclosed spaces, such as mini-buses and trains (Barraclough 1999). Furthermore, 85% of male smokers also smoke within the home daily, exposing their family members to harmful consequences (Prabandari 2015). The interview with Ninik and research allowed me to gain deeper insights into the tobacco situation in Ambon and Indonesia.
Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327-332.
Huda 2018, Is Smoking Allowed in Islam?, ThoughtCo, viewed 29 Janurary 2019, <https://www.thoughtco.com/is-smoking-allowed-in-islam-2004327>.
Permitasari A.L., Satibi S. & Kristina, S.A. 2018, ‘National burden of cancer attributable to secondhand smoking in Indonesia’, Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, vol. 19, no. 7, pp. 1951-1955.
Prabandari Y., Nichter M., Nichter M., Padmawathi R. & Muramoto M. 2015, ‘Laying the groundwork for Tobacco Cessation Education in medical colleges in Indonesia’, Education for Health, vol. 28, no. 3, p. 169.
Youth Law Australia 2018, Cigarettes, Australia, viewed 30th January 2019, <https://yla.org.au/nsw/topics/teen-issues/cigarettes/>.