Post D: Cultural Influences with Tobacco

Indonesia is amongst the highest cigarette consuming countries in the world. Demographic and social factors contribute enormously to the persuasive cigarette smoking culture, and this reduces the effect of health concerns and related research on the smoking population. Civilians from an early age are surrounded by both cultural values and tobacco-based commonality contributing to what we see in Indonesia today. 

Tobacco advertising and availability is almost completely unregulated by Indonesian law. The tobacco industries’ marketing is ubiquitous throughout both rural and urban areas (Sirichotiratana 2008). Known as Indonesia’s cultural centre, Yogyakarta is intentionally covered with a multitude of tobacco billboards and cloth banners. Similarly, many of Yogyakarta’s storefronts feature smaller but still prominent tobacco reminders and product based adverts. Many kiosk and shop owners are given cash payments in return for their advertisement based decoration. Much of this can be attributed to the many governmental benefits contributed by the Indonesian tobacco industry, with taxes and industry revenues providing a large portion of government income (Nichter 2009).

Map of Yogyakarta City highlighting main roads with dots focussing on larger commercial areas.

Cigarette taxes are an ever growing source of national revenues, increasing from 4% of total government revenue in 1996 to 10% in 2002 (Nichter 2009). The Indonesian government relies so heavily on the revenue from cigarette exec taxes, that the Indonesian Minister of Finance stated,

“I empathise with the idea of getting people to stop smoking, but for now the cost is too high,”

when discussing Indonesia’s economic situation (Achadi 2005). Much of this revenue goes towards the construction of shared spaces and street based civilian utilities, creating a heavily conflicted paradox with regard to public health.

Smoking in Javanese society is significantly more prevalent with males than females, and to a degree it has become a culturally internalised habit. A focus study on young Indonesian boys shows a mindset whereby smoking amongst their family members and social life creates a shared commonality. Smoking is so apparent that the boys would often see both students and teachers smoking in the schoolyard or even in the classroom (Nawi, Weinehall & O ̈ hman 2007). A significant local influence for these children could also be the heavy prominence of Tobacco sponsorship of cultural, musical and sporting events. In 2007 within a span of 10 months there were a recorded 1350 tobacco based sponsored events in addition to the prominence of cigarette advertising across the daily landscape.


Achadi, A., Soerojo, W. & Barber, S. ‘The relevance and prospects of advancing tobacco control in Indonesia’, Health Policy, vol. 5, no. 72, pp. 333–349.

Kusumawardani, N., Tarigan, I. & Schlotheuber, A. 2018, ‘Socio-economic, demographic and geographic correlates of cigarette smoking among Indonesian adolescents’, Global Health Action, vol. 11.

Nawi, L. & Weinehall, A., 2007, ‘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.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S. & Danardono, M. 2019, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, University of Arizona, vol. 18, pp. 98-107.

Sirichotiratana, N., Sovann, S. & Aditama, T. 2008, ‘Linking data to tobacco control program action among students aged 13-15 in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states’, Tob Control, vol. 17, pp. 372–378.

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