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.


ABC News. (2019). ‘Tobacco industry’s Disneyland’: Tackling Indonesia’s smoking addiction much harder than it seems. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

Anon, (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (2019). The Toll of Tobacco in Indonesia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

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.

Statista. (2019). Indonesia: preferred places to buy cigarettes 2019 | Statista. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

The Conversation. (2019). Protecting young Indonesian hearts from tobacco. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019]. (2019). Indonesia – Tobacco Atlas. Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

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