During my time spent in Ambon researching the tobacco community and developing anti tobacco usage strategies. Primary and secondary research collected proved that the majority of smokers not only in Ambon, but Indonesia is men. This then sparked the question of why is that? In a more globalised city like Sydney for example, smoking is not easily distinguishable as ‘mainly for men’ or ‘mainly for women’ (ABS, 2013).
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).
What sparked my curiosity was that smoking amongst women in Indonesia is low not due to popular health concerns especially with pregnant mothers, but rather it stems from a more primitive patriarchal way of thinking (Coca, 2017).
Following an interview with a local women who currently resides in Ambon but is from Jakarta. The interviewee provided information on what it is like to be a women in Indonesia and the restrictions faced and why she believes they exist.
“Once I forgot that my supervisor was at a dinner with me and I was drinking, I hoped that they didn’t see me drinking. If they did most of them would think of me in a bad way. I think it will affect image. ”(A. V 2019, pers. comm., 27 July)
Without hesitation the interviewee shared the connections she believed others to make
“if someone saw a women drinking or smoking they would think she wasn’t wife material and unfit to be a mother – men say it’s unattractive and that they don’t like the smell of tobacco or alcohol on women. But If my supervisor saw my male colleague smoke or drink that would be fine”(A. V 2019, pers. comm., 27 July)
My personal belief is that neither men nor women should indulge in smoking or excessive drinking due to its negative effects. However I believe that something so non gender specific such as smoking or drinking, women should not only have a choice, but also be able to do so without being judged, as does my interviewee.
Coca, N. (2017). Big Tobacco Wants Indonesian Women to Light Up and Liberate, OZY Confidential. viewed 30 January 2019.
NIDA. (2018). Are there gender differences in tobacco smoking?, National Institute of Drug Abuse. viewed 30 January 2019. <https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/are-there-gender-differences-in-tobacco-smoking>.
ABS. (2013). Australia Gender Indicators, Jan 2013, Australia Bureau of Statistics. viewed 30 January 2019. <www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features3320Jan%202013>.
Barraclough, S. (1999). Women and tobacco in Indonesia, BMJ Journals, viewed 30 January 2019. <https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/8/3/327.short>.
Nitcher, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Prabandari, Y., Nitcher, M. (2008). Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia, BMJ Journals, viewed 30 January 2019.<https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/18/2/98.short>.