Post D: The deep depths of tobacco indoctrination within Indonesian culture

After some reflection and research on Indonesia’s current and past state as an advertising utopia (Nichter et al., 2008) riddled with deep rooted political and corporate Tabaco indoctrination, I wanted to understand how and why this culture has and is prevailing.

Indonesian culture and the tobacco industry seem to be totally engrained in one another; this is blatantly obvious through advertising practice. The practice of a billboard or sign advertising a tobacco product is now an organic part of the Indonesian landscape. (REYNOLDS, 1999) More specifically the way these advertisements directly coincide with Indonesian religion and culture is shocking, for example this billboard (shown bellow), depicting a cigarette advertisement on a mosque. Thus there is a rich and prevalent culture link between religious symbolism and tobacco use, advertisement purposely attempts to subvert areas of traditional Indonesian culture and thus peoples desires in favour of tobacco promotion and use. (REYNOLDS, 1999)

‘The sanctity of religion—cigarette bunting on a mosque. “Selamat menunaikan ibadah puasa” means “We wish you well” or “Best wishes in carrying out the act of worship”. Photograph by Maraid O’Gorman.’ (REYNOLDS, 1999)

These elements of indoctrination go even deeper as we look at the towering powerhouses within the Indonesian tobacco landscape. Kretek (clove cigarettes) ‘carry a lower excise tax than white (Western style) cigarettes’, furthermore they are promoted as a ‘traditional Indonesian product’, similar to that of local and national Indonesian traditional medicines. This becomes highly problematic as statistics state, ‘90% of all smokers smoke indigenous cigarettes, kretek, and 10% smoke “white” cigarettes.’ Kretek cigarettes, made of a local blend known as ‘bumbu’ are also highly toxic in comparison to western tobacco products, they contain hundreds of additives, ‘more nicotine (1.2 mg–4.5 vs 1.1 mg), more tar (46.8 mg vs 16.3 mg) and more carbon monoxide (28.3 mg vs 15.5 mg) than white cigarettes.’ This type of cigarette also lies as one of the cheapest in the Indonesian tobacco market, making it not only locally and culturally engrained, but also highly accessible.

These statistics mainly come from the study site of Yogyakarta in central Java, a major cultural and educational centre, the area home to 3.5million is dominated by multiple brands of kretek through aggressive and manipulative advertising practices. (Nichter et al., 2008)

Finally, Keltek (as shown to be a harsh example of cultural manipulation for political and industry capital gain) further indoctrinates itself into not only traditional but contemporary culture through infrastructure and social campaigns. Decentralisation of laws in Yogyakarta have allowed for numerous local factors to be built which in turn feed government revenue which allows for leniency and further investment into ‘social contributions’, e.g gardens, public infrastructure like bus shelters, city lights etc. Tobacco companies will even push advertisements around times of traditional celebrations within Yogyakarta, targeting urban neighbourhoods through discounts, prizes and flashy installations. (Nichter et al., 2008)

There’s is a serious problem in existence here, company claws are deep seeded into the social and cultural flesh of wider urban Indonesia, as demonstrated through Yogyakarta. Thus, we must ask the question, how do we attack not only prevailing issues around legislation, but a deep seeded tobacco culture that continues to invest itself through generations.  

Flett, A., Mouawad, J. 2019, Untilted, Digital photography & print.


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Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. and Nichter, M. (2008). Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia. Tobacco Control, 18(2), pp.98-107.

REYNOLDS, C. (1999). Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success.” Tobacco Control, 8(1), pp.85-88.

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Post D: Legislation lags as tobacco advertising runs rampant.

The Indonesian tobacco industry holds a staggering economic and political influence, encouraging lax legislative policies surrounding advertising and facilitating a perpetual cycle of addiction and enticement. The tobacco sector is the largest source of government revenue after oil, timber and gas, as well as being Indonesia’s second-largest employer (11 million workers after the government) (Nichter M et al 2009). Due to this undeniable influence, anti-tobacco legislation lags behind the rest of the world, as evidenced by the Indonesian government’s failure to ratify the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). 

The prevalence of cigarette advertising has undeniably shaped the culture surrounding Indonesia’s tobacco crisis, as Sampoerna (the largest Indonesian tobacco company) reflected, “Indonesian companies have almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format” (Nichter Met al 2009). This has lead to cities such as Yogyakarta becoming inundated with an unrelenting onslaught of tobacco-related imagery, notably in the form of cloth banners and billboards. The tobacco industry secures control of the placement of billboards throughout the city by ingratiating itself with the local government – funding infrastructure such as city gardens and lights. This acts as what Dr Ahsan describes as “camouflage,” “donations are exchanged for people’s health and livelihood” (Wibawa 2019). The prevalence of cigarette advertising is starkly contrasted at an international level, with countries such as Australia implementing plain packaging laws (since 2012) as well as a blanket ban on radio and television advertising (The Australian Department of Health 2019).

Figure 1: High school student perceptions of tobacco advertising in Yogyakarta.
Data from Dewi, A. & Pradabandari, Y.S. 2016

The Indonesian tobacco industry doesn’t limit itself solely to traditional, corporate methods of advertising. It has insidiously worked its way into cultural events and traditions in local communities. Tobacco companies provide funds to neighbourhoods (kampungs) in Yogyakarta so that they can decorate gateways and entrances in their community with brand imagery, with the possibility of prizes for creativity. They also sponsor celebrations such as the 2008 anniversary of Yogyakarta, in which Djarum ramped up advertising throughout the city. Through these methods, as well as more conventional sponsorship of sporting events such as Formula 1 and soccer/basketball competitions, cigarette advertising works heavily to create a culture which aligns smoking with masculinity and luxury, “targeting younger age groups who are still so focused on their identity formation” (Reynolds 1999). By appealing to younger boys as a future source of profits, the tobacco industry has created a situation wherein “70% of all men and one in five children aged between 13 and 15 smoke” (Wibawa 2019). 

Image result for Gudang Garam a mans cigarette ad
Figure 2: A 1995 Gudang Garam advertisement referring to the cigarette as “Kreteknya lelaki” (“The man’s cigarette”)

As smoking continues to cause approximately 19% of adult male deaths each year with virtually no effectual legislative efforts, one cannot argue with the Indonesian Heal Minister Nafsiah Mboi’s statement, “We have failed in protecting our people” (The Telegraph 2012).



Dewi, A. & Pradabandari, Y.S. 2016, ‘How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students’, Global Health Action, vol. 9, no. 1, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Prabandari, Y., Ng, N., Danardono, M. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisments in Indonesia,’ Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 2, viewed 26 November 2019, < >.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 1, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

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Wibaya, T. 2019, Tackling Indonesia’s smoking addiction a ‘double-edged sword’, ABC, Sydney, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

Post B: Giving the middle finger to HIV.

In the context of a global aids epidemic, with NGO’s struggling to resonate with youth culture; the solution required an intouch, radical and experimental approach. A top down approach from MTV was wildly successful in sparking conversation while involving this criteria in a simpe well devised add campaign, utilizing a 21st century social media frenzy through their hashtag ‘FCKHIV’. (WPPedCream 2017, 2019) Credited to the agency, Ogilvy Johannesburg in coordination with brand name Viacom and MTV the campaign went on to win numerous awards and spark roughly 6.8milion impressions within the first 5 hours, trending as the top hashtag on world aids day on twitter (One Nation Studios, 2019).

The success of this campaign from a design and marketing perspective is due to a couple of simplistic but highly effective variables. Firstly connection, this campaign (in reflection of the video <> quickly identifies itself as an expressive, radical and in touch piece of production. Using traditional film footage in the beginning and subverting it’s serious undertones with bold bright and almost rude text, notably the ‘blah, blah, blah blah’, completely changes the tone and feeling, thus setting a new precinct with correct emotional undertones for the movement to be built on (, 2019)., 2019

In it’s first phase (upon release in 2016) timing was key. The campaign was executed during the month of December, a consistent date set for youth in Africa to party hard, and perfectly in alightment with World Aids Day (, 2019).

In the productions final form the campaign took another radical approach in 2017. Taking the contextually relevant imagery of sperm and juxtaposing its contents with it’s message through a vibrant colourful layout of sperm, blocky but contemporary abstract shapes and big bold but playful typography illustrating the core message, ‘#FCK HIV’ (, 2019).

Apart of the solution involved interdisplenary coordination. This further addresses issues around cultural disconnection and the previous problem with connecting to youth. To address this Ogilvy “ took MTV’s animation art direction and fused it with an underground South African music genre called, Gqom.” Thus we have a highly successful and multi displenary campaign, utilising the hyper digital platform of social media and some clever design to potentially treat thousands of individuals while simultaneously reverting and removing stigma around the global monster known as HIV.

In response to the brief itself, I believe this campaign sets a perfect precedence of thinking for our Indonesia task. Specifically the notions of empathy, understanding and practicality in terms of conection and an in touch attitude and timeless design in consideration of cultural history and current status quoe (, 2019).


Anon, (2019). [online] Available at:;) [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019]. (2019). Behance. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019]. (2019). Welcome | Ogilvy South Africa. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

One Nation Studios. (2019). One Nation Studios – Channel O Absolute V3. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019]. (2019). VIACOM | Ogilvy | MTV #FCKHIV | WE LOVE AD. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

WPPedCream 2017. (2019). MTV #FCKHIV. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

Post D: Interrelation between poverty and smoking prevalence.

While Indonesia’s recovery from the Asian Economic Crisis was commendable, 26.6% of Indonesians are still living in poverty (Hartati, 2018). The most disadvantaged Javanese per capita are those living in the Special Region of Yogyakarta, due to its extreme population density (1138 people/square kilometre) (World Bank 2010), as well as families in rural villages such as those in Central Java. 

Despite Indonesia being in the bottom 50% of wealthiest countries in the world (IMF, 2019), tobacco consumption is on the rise, increasing almost 7 times between 1970 and 2000 (WHO, 2000). Globally, 84% of smokers live in developing and transitional economies reflecting the global epidemic of tobacco use in poorer regions. WHO states that tobacco kills 225720 Indonesians per year – that’s 14.7% of all deaths and the top cause of premature death. Furthermore, cardiovascular diseases in adolescents are more likely to be caused by tobacco use, reflecting the strengthening tobacco culture. For the 9% of the youth population who smoke (WHO, 2018), socio-economic factors can be largely attributed. Bigwanto (2015) reported that youths having mothers with a lower level of education or employment were more likely to smoke. This is due to the malleability of young minds and a child’s search for empowerment in a parental figure.

Poor Indonesian families place tobacco as a necessity, spending 12.4% of their incomes on it, only second to rice (19%) (National Socio-Economic Surveys, Indonesia, 2003-2005). Furthermore, populations in the most socioeconomically deprived groups have higher lung cancer risk than those in the most affluent groups (Singh, 2011). These healthcare costs of smoking reinforce Indonesia’s poverty, direct costs including medicine and hospital visits, and indirect costs referring to productivity and caregiving. The government is burdened with most of this cost, which in turn drains and represses the economy. (Ross, 2015). 

On a regional scale, a direct correlation between poverty and tobacco use can be seen on the island of Java, where regions with the highest Purchasing Power Parity experience the lowest rates of smoking. Exceptions are made for Jakarta, where income levels are high enough to purchase tobacco as a luxury and for Jogjakarta where residents may be too poor to afford tobacco. From these trends it can be seen that smoking and poverty are interrelated and self-reinforcing.

The solution to reducing consumption, especially in the youth and poor demographics, is price and taxation intervention (Barber, 2008). This would additionally generate government revenue, offsetting the debt caused by medical bills and premature mortality, and stabilise Indonesia’s economy as the nation grows and emerges. 



Aditama 2002, ‘Smoking Problem in Indonesia’, vol 11, no. 1, pp. 56-65.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2016, Statistik Indonesia 2016, Jakarta, accessed November 25, <>.

Ganiwijaya 1995, ‘Prevalence of Cigarette Smoking in a Rural Area of West Java, Indonesia,’ Tobacco Control, vol. 4, no. 4, 1995, pp. 335–337.

IMF 2019, World Economic Outlook, accessed 25 November, <>. 

Nugraha 2018, Indonesia’s Poverty Rate Lowest in History, Australia-Indonesia Centre, Melbourne, accessed 25 November, <>.

Ross 2015, ‘Tobacco and Poverty in South East Asia’, International Tobacco Control Research, vol. 2, pp. 1-11.

Singh 2011, ‘Socioeconomic, Rural-Urban, and Racial Inequalities in US Cancer Mortality’, Journal of Cancer Mortality, vol. 10, no. 11, pp. 107-197. 

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Post D: Kudus, Kretek, Kelamin

Indonesia has the highest smoking rates in the world, a huge influence on such negative health decisions is the austerity of gender roles. Despite there being approximately fifty-seven million individuals participating in tobacco usage, only 5% of smokers are female. This extreme disparity of tobacco intake is encouraged through marketing methods that on social stereotypes and traditions which usually pressures young males. This social stricture becomes a further difficult instrument, as it not only encourages people to smoke but also prevents people from quitting, 30.4% in Indoesnia attempts to quit but only 9.5% are successful, compared to Australia’s statistics of 60.5% of individuals who attempt and successfully cease smoking. Kudus, in Central Java, is one of many regencies impacted by such perception of tobacco. Being the originators of ‘kretek’, a popular Indonesian clove cigarette, they value and symbolise the ‘kretek’ as the “aromatic soul of a nation, the fragment embodiment of all Indonesians”.

Gudang Garam, a tobacco company which sells ‘kretek’, markets towards young Indonesian males, to adopt this prideful, zealous figure of an ideal ‘Indonesian Man’. An advertisement by Gudang Garam, critiques the younger generation on their powerlessness, a television ad where a young woman elucidated to be a tour guide is ignored until the bus driver, an older man, speaks and gains the tourists interest. This compares younger males to this weak perception of women, displaying the elders to be distinguished because of their tradition with cigarettes. This juxtaposition not only disdains women but presents cigarettes as a catalyse to create puissant men. Subtly the advert invites the young males to reflect on their social position and questions their cultural identity.

Tobacco companies further influence the population of young males in Kudus, through sporting sponsorships. Soccer is the most popular sports in Indonesia, highly popular with adolescent males, with 54% of the Indonesian population watching EPL (English Premier League). As a reaction all major tobacco companies sponsor sporting events. In June 2012, Gudang Garam, an Indonesian tobacco company, had a contract with Manchester United and England football star Rio Ferdinand, the sports figure endorsing sweet cinnamon flavoured ‘kretek’ which are particularly popular with children. This ignited great controversy, with the National Commission for Child Protection in Indonesia to intervene, “since Rio Ferdinand is a major role model for children and adolescent in Indonesia”. This marketing method to create a “friendly familiarity” between tobacco and sports enthusiasts, encourages males into tobacco through those they admire. ­

Gudang Garam Intersport, 2012

Overall ‘kretek’ despite the health complications it may cause, it holds an identity to Indonesians. Highly valuing the ‘kretek’ culture in Kudus, combined with the advertisements of gender roles creates a greater influence on the male population.

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