POST C: Religion and smoking in Ambon?

In order to get a better understanding of Ambonese culture and the effects of smoking had on Ambon, I interviewed Arif, a small family restaurant owner in Ambon whose venue is one of the few that is strictly smoke-free.

Arif photo.PNG
Figure 1. Arif standing in front of his smoke-free restaurant. Photographer: Yllianna Maneze.


I was interested in gaining an insight into Ambonese culture as well as history and whether there was a connection between religion and smoking culture, as Arif claimed the reason he didn’t allow smoking in his restaurant because it was the ‘House of the Lord’. A study done claims that those who participate in a high amount of religious activities have a higher chance of be a non-smoker (Widyaningrum & Yu 2018; U.S Department of State 2010). As we were conversing about Ambonese culture, he stated that the people were very communal and there were many mixed races and religions which is true for most of Indonesia. He also brought up the riots that occurred in Ambon during 1999. These riots were an ethnopolitical conflict triggered by a relatively minor fight between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim youth. The real reason is still unclear, but Arif states that there was a looming ethnoreligious tension in the city, predominately between the Christian and Muslim. The neighbourhoods used to be a mixing pot of ethnicities and religion, but post-war Arif described it like a ‘shadow’ dividing the city.

It was interesting how Arif brought up the darker past of Ambon when I asked him about smoking. Thinking in a wider context, Indonesia unites over 200 million people with over 300 ethnicities, 250 languages and 6,000 islands. One would believe that with such a wide range of cultures there would be many different types of faiths however, only 6 religions are officially recognised by the government (U.S Department of State 2010).

Some groups have turned to religion to stop smoking which has become portrayed as rooted into Indonesian culture and tradition. For example, Islamic groups have tried to ban smoking as forbidden under Islam and united with anti-smoking lobbies to stop tobacco sponsored events. Arif states that the bibles teachings preach that smoking is bad for you, he also knows passive smoking has harmful effects and because of his strong family values he chooses not to smoke. Religion could possibly be an overlooked aspect to incorporate into a non-smoking campaign.



Bebas Bernapas 2019, “Meet Arif”, Instagram post, 23 January, viewed 24 January 2019, <;.

U.S Department of State 2010, International Religious Freedom Report 2010, viewed 30 January 2019, <>.

Widyaningrum, N. & Yu, J. 2018, ‘Tobacco Use Among the Adult Muslim Population in Indonesia: A Preliminary Study on Religion, Cultural, and Socioeconomic Factors’, Journal of Drug Issues,   vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 676-88.


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