Post D – Java tobacco culture: “Will Someone Please think of the Children!?”

Tobacco culture has Indonesia firmly in it’s grasp, so tight that it’s economy is dependant on multinational tobacco corporations which exploit it’s poorly enforced laws and developing farmland regions, leading to “inadequate regulations and poor enforcement of the law, particularly in the small-scale farming sector, leave[ing] working children at risk” (Wurth & Buchanan 2016). As well as exploiting child labour, the tobacco industry utilises overt and ubiquitous advertising via multi channel media across the nation, most notably targeting to impressionistic young adults, and children by proxy. Indonesia holds the highest percentage of young male smokers on earth (Senthilingam 2017), as well as being one of the worlds highest prevalence of male smokers next to China and Russia (Drope & Schluger 2018, p. 20)

(Senthilingam 2017) via The Tobacco Atlas

[Smoking] make[s] me look cool” says a young boy who is brand loyal to Djarum Super, the commercials “are cool, hip [and] really stylish, the actors are very cool” (Brabazon 2012, 7:00 – 7:17).

“Ompong, which means ‘toothless’, has a cigarette” (Siu 2014-2015)

Children see adverts on television admittedly designed to reach the younger generations: Cigarette companies do this by also sponsoring football, badminton, cycling and adventure sports (Ibid, 2:48 – 2:55).

“This cigarette advertisement in #Yogyakarta urges smokers to ‘never quit’ #Indonesia” (Strangio 2017)

The effect of tobacco culture on children in Indonesia is widespread, so much so that not only are children buying into the influential habitual trend of smoking, but in rural areas they’re faced with economic pressure to work at plantations harvesting tobacco leaves, the leaves of which have been reportedly sold directly through tobacco merchants to British American owned companies which produce many of the cigarettes in Indonesia.

“A tobacco trader judges the quality of tobacco he purchased from another trader near Sumenep” (Bleasdale 2015)

Tobacco Harvesting without proper enforced safety regulations can cause transdermal nicotine poisoning. “I’m always throwing up every time I’m harvesting” says Ayu, a 13 year old girl who harvests tobacco with her family from a small village near Garut. However, it is her and her families only choice available to earn a wage to survive (Wurth & Buchanan 2016).

Explorers map of the Tobacco industry in Central Java

Through joining the dots, it is clear that tobacco industries are complicit in ethical crimes against children, through actively exploiting child labour via tobacco merchants, and also by advertising / sponsoring multi channel media that directly coerces the youth of Indonesia into the habit of smoking.


Barbazon, J. 2012, ‘Unreported World’, Indoneisa’s Tobacco Children, vol. 24, no 2, Quicksilver Media Productions, United Kingdom, p. 23:31, <;.

Bleasdale, M. 2015, Tobacco Trader, Photograph, Human Rights Watch, <;.

Drope, J. & Schluger, N.W. 2018, The Tobacco Atlas, Sixth Edition edn, American Cancer Society, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Senthilingam, M. 2017, Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic, CNN, <;.

Siu, M. 2014-2015, Marlboro Boys, Photographic series with text, <;.

Strangio, S. 17 July 2017, This cigarette advertisment in Yogyakarta urges smokers to “never quit” […], Twitter, <;.

Wurth, M. & Buchanan, J. 2016, The Harvest is in My Blood.

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