POST D: Indonesian Tobacco Culture and Gender

Indonesias tobacco industry is one of the largest industries in the country with 53.7 million active adult smokers and 2.6 active youth smokers (Indonesia Investment 2016). While that statistic is obscenely high its important to note that two thirds of Indonesian men are smokers/consume tobacco related products. It is estimated while 65% of Indonesian men are smokers around only 3% of women are smokers. The reason for the huge discrepancy in the percentage of male smokers compared to female smokers is that it is not socially acceptable for women to be seen smoking.

Advertising in the tobacco industry within Indonesia also plays a large part in the influence of the gender discrepancy between male and female smokers. In Yogyakarta the streets are inundated with tobacco advertising, and the majority of the billboards depict male centric advertisement (Nichter, M. 2009). In images 1 and 2 the tobacco brand Surya Pro Mild billboards in Yogyakarta clearly show the male targeted theme of the advert. It is stereotypically “masculine” and brutish and implies that “men” don’t quit smoking their brand of tobacco and if you do then you’re not man enough. 

Image 1 – Surya Pro Mild tobacco advertisement billboard in Yogyakarta
Image 2 – Surya Pro Mild tobacco advertisement billboard in Yogyakarta

Smoking among Indonesian men is widely socially and culturally acceptable whereas Indonesian women smoking is not. While this stereotypical societal value that women are less accepted as smokers is inherently sexist, it is beneficial for the health of Indonesian women overall by inflicting a strong societal deterrent from women taking up the habit. 

In conclusion, there is clear underlying cultural and societal sexism within tobacco advertisement in Indonesia and it is a paradoxical situation where there inherent and ingrained male gender specific targeted ads and overall societal culture, this has meant that women are a lot less likely to smoke tobacco. While this is a somewhat positive outcome it does not negate the fact that although the percentage of women who smoke in Indonesia is comparatively lower than the percentage of Indonesian men who smoke millions of people are still dying at an alarming rate and prematurely due to tobacco consumption. It is also important to understand that while there is a much smaller percentage of women who use tobacco products it is still an important health issue that needs to be resolved regardless of gender. 


  1. Indonesia Investments 2016, ‘Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia’, Indonesia Investments, viewed 23 November 2019, <
  2. Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, pp. 327-332
  3. Nichter, M., Padmawati S., Danardono M. 2009,Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol.18,  pp98-107.


  1. Gudang Garam PRO Mild – Conventional Bilboard, 26/11/2019, <
  2. Duncan Graham, INDONESIA NOW with Duncan Graham, 26/11/2019, <>

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