POST D: Culture of tobacco advertising in Indonesia

By April Jiang

With the domination of Indonesia’s tobacco industry, advertising plays a significant role in its culture manifesting new and existing values to the community. As a result of the government’s lack of urgency regarding the nation’s blind addiction to tobacco, Indonesia is the only country in Asia that is not affiliated with the World Health Organisation’s: Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) (Tjandra 2018). This has significantly compromised the growth of citizens and their behaviour and views towards smoking activity. As a result of the heavy marketing of tobacco, the world’s view of illegal advertising, is regarded as normal for the community.

(A schoolboy passes billboards advertising tobacco products in Sumba, Indonesia c. 2014)

Indonesia’s culture of cigarette advertising is known to be amongst the most aggressive in the world. It has become an undetected factor to the wisdom of society, influencing their behaviours and priorities, and disguising the activity with positive connotations. In 2004, 50% of all the nation’s billboards comprised of tobacco advertisements. In local Yogyakarta, this was a result of billboards’ taxes comprising a large portion of the government’s revenue. The vigorous nature of the industry is evident in the government’s inability to compromise the economy, for the public health of the people. As a result of tobacco companies possessing political and financial power, the industry is present in almost all aspects of Indonesian living. This is revealed to a great extent, in previous sponsorships within Yogyakarta, such as contests and college scholarships offered by tobacco companies, whose advertisements were also evident in college canteens (Nichter, Padmawati, Prabandari, Ng, Danardono, Nichter 2009). This exposure inevitably stains the knowledge of smoking activity in students to a degree they accept its normality in society. Although new laws have attempted to suppress the promotion of tobacco advertisements, such as sponsorships and media, they continue to manifest in daily culture.

Tobacco advertisements have surpassed the purpose of promotion and have progressed to exist amongst Indonesian life style. Advertisements “promote choice, and simply reflect” (Williams 2011). and “connect with the prevailing popular cultural values and desires of the day.” (Reynolds 1999). The presence of tobacco advertisements has grown to the extent of becoming almost natural to the city landscape of Yogyakarta in Central Java, known to be a major cultural and educational centre. They have had “almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format and through any communications vehicle in the country” (Nichter, Padmawati, Prabandari, Ng, Danardono, Nichter 2009). The saturation of tobacco exposure is further evident in a small focus of Jl. Mayor Suryotomo, a Yogyakarta street. Common forms of advertisements include cloth banners and billboards. In figure 1, the distressing amount of tobacco advertisements presented on cloth banners are recorded in red along the road, accessed through Google’s 2018 satellite imagery.

Figure 1: Jl. Mayor Suryotomo, Yogyakarta (Jl. Mayor Suryotomo 2018)

Whilst the nuances of tobacco advertising evolve to become an aspect in Indonesian culture, other south east-Asian countries, such as Thailand, Singapore and Brunei are progressing to ban its promotion. However, as a result of the nation’s prolonged exposure towards the culture of tobacco advertising, the nation requires alleviated encouragement, strict bans and potentially behavioural trends that will eliminate affirming connotations for smoking today.


Jl. Mayor Suryotomo 2018, Google Maps, views 25 November 2019,<,110.369313,3a,75y,4.96h,90.79t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sdjNr9z0cxEQMfuM3QvkP4Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656>

McCall, C. 2014, A schoolboy passes billboards advertising tobacco products in Sumba, Indonesia, The Lancet, viewed 25 November 2019,                         <>

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Prabandari, Y., Ng, N., Danardono, M., Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisments in Indonesia,’ Tobacco Control, volume 18, issue 2, viewed 25 November 2019, <>

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: The defining characteristics for success,” volume 8, issue 1, viewed 25 November 2019, <>

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked,’ The Conversation, 1 June, viewed 25 November 2019, <>

Williams, J. 2011, ‘The cultural impact of advertising,’ The Earthbound Report,’ weblog, WordPress, Luton, October 26, viewed 25 November 2019, <


Post D : Young smokers in Yogyakarta

Daerah Ibukota Yogyakarta is Java island’s soul, where the Javanese language is the purest (Lonely Planet, 2019). Yogya or often written as Jogja is one of the most active cultural centers in Indonesia. Behind the beauty of its nature and the exotic culinary, Yogyakarta is a city where young active smokers are often found (Octavia, 2017). Research in 2005 suggests that the percentage of young active smokers in Indonesia is 38% among boys and 5.3% among girls (Ng, Weinehall & Ohman, 2006). Fast forward to 2013, another research done shows that the percentage of daily smokers has grown, and in Yogyakarta itself has reached 21.2% (Octavia, 2017). Based on research, smokers in Yogyakarta consist of two categories, one is the experimental smoker, and the other one is a regular smoker (Marwati, 2011).

The beauty of companionship: School children spend time in a convenience store in Pejaten, Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta. Some of the teens enjoy smoking while chatting.
( Burhaini Faizal)

What are the factors that may lead to a growing number of young smokers?

Indonesia itself is the top fifth tobacco consuming countries in the world (Ng, Weinehall & Ohman, 2006), and is the second-largest cigarette market in Asia (Indonesia Investments, 2016). This may happen as tobacco companies in Indonesia have a huge political and financial impact on the country, and are the government’s top five largest sources of revenue (Reynolds, 1999). The tobacco industry itself is very strong, as it employs more than 11 million workers and is the second-largest employer after the government (Nichter M, Padmawati S, Danardono M, et al, 2009). 

Another article suggests that a study revealed that youths perceived cigarette ads as encouraging them to smoke (Prabandari & Dewi 2016). Cigarette advertising can be found anywhere in Indonesia, starting from television, big billboard over the highway, magazines, and even newspapers. Besides advertisements, movies that show scenes that expose the act of smoking may be one of the encouraging factors for youngsters to smoke (Prabandari & Dewi 2016), just like how children often mimic their parents’ behavior. 

A smoking advertisement on a billboard shared by Sebastian Strangio on Twitter.

Tarwoto (2010) suggests that some factors that may lead to the habit of smoking are social status, the pressure of colleagues, the influence of parents who smoke, and the belief that smoking will not affect health. Besides all that, Indonesia has a lack of tobacco control, as it is stated that this country is behind in terms of the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control signature and ratification (Ng, Weinehall & Ohman, 2006). 

Is there any effort done to tackle this problem?

Many have been done in order to reduce young smokers in Indonesia. One very good example that was done in Yogyakarta by one researcher, was launching a smoke-free home activity back in 2011 in 9 neighborhoods in Yogyakarta (Marwati, 2011). Smoke-free signs were put on every house, but this doesn’t mean that it forbids people to smoke, but rather to appeal to smokers to provide fresh air for other people (Marwati, 2011).

Map of Central Java, where Yogyakarta, the city where I did my research, is highlighted.

Reference Lists:

Faizal, E. B, 2016, Social media plays role in youth smoking, says expert, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Indonesia Investments, 2016, Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Lonely Planet, 2019, Welcome to Yogyakarta, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Marwati, 2011, 16 Percent of Junior and Senior High School Students in Yogyakarta City are Smokers, viewed 22 November 2019, <>.

Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall, A. Öhman, 2006, ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking, Health Education Research, vol. 22, no. 6, pp 794–804, viewed 22 November 2019, <>.

Nichter M, Padmawati S, Danardono M, et al, 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 02, pp 98-107, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Octavia, A. A, 2017, Meningkatnya Perokok Aktif Remaja di Yogyakarta (The increasing number of teenage active smokers in Yogyakarta), Kompasiana, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Prabandari, Y. S. & Dewi, A. 2016, ‘How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students’, Global Health Action, vol. 9, no. 01, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, pp 85-88. viewed 22 November 2019, <>.

Strangio, S. 2017, This cigarette advertisement in #Yogyakarta urges smokers to “never quit” #Indonesia, Twitter, viewed 22 November 2019, <>.

Tarwoto, 2010. Kesehatan Remaja : Problem dan Solusinya, Salemba Medika, Jakarta, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Post D: The norms and values relating to smoking in Javanese society

After China, Indonesia is the second-largest cigarette market in Asia. It is estimated that around 65 percent of Indonesian men are smokers. For Indonesian women, the figure is much lower – around 3 percent only (Indonesia Investment 2016). Most of the smokers start smoking from early age and got addicted eventually. An estimated of 58.1% of men adults aged over 15 years old were current smokers and as the age increased the prevalence of current smoking increased by almost 20% (Kristina et al. 2016). But people with higher level of education were less likely to currently smoke than a high school education people. Through a research conducted by a university student in Yogyakarta, non-smokers indicate that they have a higher quality of life compared to smokers, and in general showed a significant relationship with others (Perdana 2014).

The different percentage of men adults smokers and non-smokers over 15 years old in Yogyakarta and their reasons to smoke.

Smoking can lead to different diseases one of them is diabetes. In Yogyakarta Province, 65% of male diabetes patients smoked before being diagnosed (Padmawati et al. 2009). But despite knowing that they suffer from diabetes, 32% still smoked in the last 30 days, many diabetic patients continue to smoke despite the hazard of smoking on diabetes complications and mortality. Lack of education is one of the biggest factors of smokers in Indonesia. They think that if they don’t smoke, they are not a real man. Smoking is used as a metaphor for masculinity, potency and bravery. and by not smoking society will treat them as ‘abnormal’ (Ng, Weinehall, Öhman 2006). The norms and values relating to smoking in Javanese society has becoming the reasons for their smoking. In Java culture, cigarettes are often introduced to young boys during the traditional religious ritual of circumcision, which in this society occurs at the age of 10–12 years. 

Icha, 16, began smoking when she was 13 after a friend offered a cigarette to smoke together. Now, she smokes at least one pack of 12 cigarettes each day (CNN Health 2017).

Therefore, smoking among Java is associated with both traditional and modern culture, as well as religious practice. Smoking is deeply rooted and accepted by the society since it was introduced in Indonesia a long time ago, in the 16th century, making smokers hard to quit and even doesn’t have desire to quit. In Indonesia smoking and tobacco advertisements were signs of several positive connotations, such as ‘a steady life’, ‘pleasure’, ‘good taste’, ‘feel so rich’, ‘impressive’, ‘good appearance’ and ‘attractive’. Government need to act fast to establish a clear understanding to citizens especially young people to not think smoking as a privileged, however they should start treating it as something they shouldn’t try since young age.

Reference List:

Indonesia Investments 2016, ‘Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia’, Indonesia Investments, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.

Kristina, S. A., Endarti, D., Widayanti, A. W., Widiastuti, M. 2015, ‘Health-related Quality of Life Among Smokers in Yogyakarta‘, International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, viewed 23 November 2019, <,Vol8,Issue1,Article18.pdf&gt;.

Ng, N., Weinehall, L., Öhman, A. 2006, ‘‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’, Indonesia Investments, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.

Padmawati, R. S., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. S., Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Smoking among diabetes patients in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: cessation efforts are urgently needed’, Wiley Online Library, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.


Senthilingam, M. 2017, ‘Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic’, CNN Health, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.

Post B: take diabetes 2 heart

The 2018 “TAKE DIABETES 2 HEART AWARENESS” campaign is to encourage positive heart health. Due to the drastic effects of diabetes and heart disease in our current society, “TAKE DIABETES 2 HEART” is about inspiring and motivating people living with diabetes and the people and family around them to take positive steps to better heart health.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage open conversations about looking after their health and making positive changes in their lives with the assistance of family and friends and the support of Diabetes Australia.

Diabetes is an epidemic of the 21st Century and one of the biggest challenges confronting the Australian Health system today, around 1.7 million Australians are living with diabetes and many people that are living with it do not know all the facts and where to find help.( Minges KE, Zimmet PZ, Magliano DJ , 2011 ) Understanding diabetes is very critical and this is why this campaign is so important because it is opening the lines of communication for all to ensure the information is transparent and targets the community. 280 Australians develop diabetes every day, that’s one person every five minutes. Through research and studies, it is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia with more than 100,000 Australians have developing diabetes in the last year. ( diabetes Australia) For every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or carer who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day within the family. That’s an estimated 2.4 million Australians are affected by diabetes every day. (diabetes Australia)

This campaign has used many successful adverting strategies however it has also had some limitations regarding its exposure to the wider community. If you have someone within your family circle or peer group, the information is available generally through their General practitioner, local support group and being actively involved in diabetes Australia. If you don’t have access to someone that is suffering directly, the information may not reach you. To promote something that is coincided so serious in community it needs to start at the grass roots through primary and secondary schools, more television promotion at prime-time periods when families sit and watch television and specific targeting on social media to all age’s groups. Once diabetes or type 2 diabetes has developed generally their health has already started to deteriorate and if the information was provided earlier it would be easier the prevent now rather that tackling the problem when it is already apparent.

All health issues that relate back to our community will burden each and every countries health system. This  holistic approach to tackling health problems can be incorporated into other health campaigns , for example “smoking “because it is not only focusing on the smoker, but about the people and family  around you , getting the right information and education it encourages a communal approach to tackling the issue together Approaching diabetes in this way has not been done before especially incorporating and confronting heart disease. Breaking the tradition and committing ourselves to understanding the disease, prevention and seeking help making the general public more conscious of their lifestyles and their body


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2014. Australian Health Survey: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey 2012–13. Canberra: ABS.

Minges KE, Zimmet PZ, Magliano DJ, 2011. Diabetes prevalence and determinants in Indigenous Australian populations: a systematic review. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 93:139–149.

k. Corcoran, t. Jowsey, s. Leeder, 2013,  ‘one size does not fit all: The different experiences of those with chronic heart failure, type 2 diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ Australian health review, vol:37, iss:31, viewed 24th nov 2019;dn=164009969029552;res=IELAPA

L. Philpott, 2019,  ‘Diabetes: Let’s talk diabetes: The need for continued conversations’, AJP: he Australian journal of pharmacy, vol:100, iss:1189, viewed 24th nov 2019


Diabetes Australia, 2018,current campaigns, diabetes Australia, viewed 24th nov 2019, <>

take diabetes 2 heart, 2018,share the love,  diabetes Australia, viewed 24th nov 2019, <>



POST D: youth smoking culture

In this tobacco village, smoking 'kretek' is rite of passage
Image source: In this tobacco village, smoking ‘kretek’ is rite of passage, Kusumasari Ayuningtyas, The Jakarta Post

Despite how alarming it sounds, it isn’t uncommon to see children as young as in primary school smoking cigarettes in rural areas of Indonesia. Technically, the legal age to purchase cigarettes is 18 years old in Indonesia, however the industry still remains heavily unregulated, with no penalties imposed on retailers who sell cigarettes to minors.

In some places such as the tobacco producing village of Magelang, Central Java, smoking ‘kretek’ (cigarettes made with a blend of tobacco, cloves and other flavours) has become a passage of right for young boys, as many have received packets of cigarettes as a gift for circumcision, as some cultures in Indonesia regard circumcision as the mark of when a boy becomes a man, with boys as young as nine years old receiving this gift from their fathers. The long-standing tradition, coupled with regional revenue from the tobacco industry, has made regency officials hesitant to send a strong message against tobacco control in the area (Ayuningtyas, 2018). Therefore, there is a place of conflict in enforcing tobacco control in the area due to the fact that “on one hand smoking is a part of the culture in the village. On the other hand, these children have to get help to quit smoking” (Rusdjijati, 2018), as the chairperson of Magelang Muhammadiya University’s Tobacco Control Centre Retno Rusdjijati discussed how cases like these put tobacco control campaigners in a dilemma.

map of Indonesia with statistics

The main factors which impact the high number of children smoking are the social and cultural influences particularly if their parents are smokers, and the easy accessibility and affordability of cigarettes; an individual cigarette being as cheap as $0.07 and a pack of 20 Marlborough cigarettes priced at around $1.55. The Global Youth Tobacco Surveys (GYTS) conducted in Indonesia, along neighbouring countries found that the prevelance rate among youth in Indonesia is much higher than that of neighbouring countries, with the the prevelance rate being 22% in Indonesia- a much higher contrast to the 9% in Singapore and 5% in China (Martini and Sulistyowati, 2005). The youth smokers interviewed in the GYTS had said that 69% of them had purchased cigarettes from stores, and 72% said that they had never been refused the purchase from cigarettes from retailers. If this already wasn’t alarming enough, a further 13% said that they were offered cigarettes by the tobacco industry, which often holds promotional activities at malls and entertainment centres, including offers of free cigarettes to young people.


Wibabwa, T, 2019, Tackling Indonesia’s smoking addiction a ‘double-edged sword’, ABC News,

Tjandra, N, 2018, Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, The Conversation,

Martini, S, and Sulistyowati, M, 2005, The Determinants of Smoking Behavior among teenagers in East Java Province, Indonesia, World Bank,;sequence=1

Ayuningtyas, K, 2018, In this tobacco village, smoking ‘kretek’ is rite of passage, The Jakarta Post,

Aditama, T.Y, year unknown, Smoking problem in Indonesia, 52 Article Text, file:///Users/naomi/Downloads/52-Article%20Text-101-1-10-20130310.pdf