Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, with there being dramatically more male users than female users worldwide. Around 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low-middle income countries. (World Health Organisation, 2019) Amongst these countries, Indonesia is the world’s second largest tobacco market after China, with the population of active smokers being 67.4% male and 4.5% female.(World Health Organisation, 2018) These figures demonstrate how cultural, social and gender normalities surrounding tobacco usage have provoked this nature of toxic masculinity as well as how the act of smoking is associated with ‘fitting in.’
A society’s cultural norms and values help mould the way gender is perceived and expressed. (Marrow, 2010) In Indonesia, the presence of tobacco has been evident since the 16th century, adapting to what is now an accepted and social necessity. (Swandewi Astuti, 2018) Due to the normalisation of smoking culture, the tobacco industry is hugely influential, therefore continuing to target the male population aggressively. It is further encouraged by the positive connotations, with smoking promoted as a ‘pleasurable’ and ‘beneficial’. Social denormalisation of smoking can provide an environment that helps smokers to quit, (Schoenaker, 2018) which is what Indonesia’s cultural demographic lacks.
A 2006 study titled ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’ by Nawi Ng, highlighted the pressures of smoking and its engraved link to masculinity. It focused on 50 teenage boys in four schools in Purworejo District, Central Java purposely examining rural regions to collect understandings. Results found that the boys had not only emphasised that “man has always smoked”, but that smoking as an activity, increased social status amongst friends. If they smoked a ‘good’, expensive and popular cigarette brand, they felt more confident and superior to their peers. (Health Education Research, 2007)
“If we don’t follow our peers and smoke, they will call us feminine” (Health Education Research, 2007, p.798) This idea of achieving manhood is also promoted through smoking, as “A real man should be daring, courageous, confident…[and] able to prove his manliness.” (Courtenay, 2000,p. 73).
The masculine norms discourage ‘feminine’ behaviours and instead aim to express the ‘male identity.’
Project Quit Tobacco International also conducted their own research between 2001-2007 on how smoking appeals to men. After interviewing a sample of urban male smokers from Yogyakarta, results emphasised that masculinity was the main motivation.
In a particular interview, a young man who was a non-smoker, recalled how his uncle expressed concern that neither he nor his brother smoked; “There is nothing bad that will happen to you…It’s a shame for our family line that you and your brother are not smoking—all the men in our family smoke—your father, your grandfather. You are breaking the chain of our family’s smoking history”. (Nichter, 2009)
Barber,S., Ahsan, A., Adioetomo, S., Setyonalur, D., 2008, ‘Tobacco Economics in Indonesia’, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, France, viewed 25th November 2019, <https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/global/pdfs/en/Indonesia_tobacco_taxes_report_en.pdf>
Morrow, M., Barraclough, S., 2010, ‘Gender equity and tobacco control: bringing masculinity into focus’, Sage Publications, viewed 25th November 2019, <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1757975909358349>
Nawi, Ng., Weinehall, L., 2006, ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’, Health Education Research, Vol 22, no. 11, viewed 25th November 2019, <https://academic.oup.com/her/article/22/6/794/640787>
Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., 2008, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, BMJ Journals, Arizona, USA, viewed 25th November 2019, <https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/18/2/98.info>
Schewe, E., 2017, Why Do So Many Indonesian Men Smoke?, Jstor, viewed 25 November 2019, <https://daily.jstor.org/why-do-so-many-indonesian-men-smoke/>
Schoenaker, D., Brennan, E., Wakefield, M., Durkin, S., 2018, ‘Anti-smoking social norms are associated with increased cessation behaviours among lower and higher socioeconomic status smokers: A population-based cohort study’, Plos One, viewed 25th November 2019, <https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0208950>
Swandewi Astuti, P., Freeman, B., 2018, Protecting Indonesian Youth from Tobacco, The Conversation, Sydney, viewed 25th November 2019, <https://thewire.in/health/protecting-indonesian-youth-from-tobacco>
World Health Organisation, 2010, ‘Brief Profile on Gender and Tobacco in South East Asia region’, New Dehli, India, viewed 25th November 2019, <http://apps.searo.who.int/PDS_DOCS/B4519.pdf>