I remember watching ABC News’ ‘Children smoking in Indonesia’ (ABC, 2012) in high school years back. The video depicted Indonesian toddlers in which majority were boys as young as two year olds smoking, sparking high controversy.
Local tobacco company, Gudang Garam’s ‘GG Mild brand’ is rumoured to be notorious for targeting the youth in their trendy smoking advertisements (refer to video). They’ve used this to their advantage as cigarettes are accessible to the underage as there are no laws of restriction in buying (GYTYS). Further, tobacco is also sold cheaply at around $1.55USD for a Malboro 20 pack.
In 2012, Indonesia was said to have the most male smokers in the world according to the ‘Global Adult Tobacco Survey’ (GATS, 2012). Almost 72% of Indonesian men over the age of 15 years have smoked and more than half (54.2%) of their male population are daily smokers (WHO, 2019). Tobacco has been intentionally developed to integrate with Indonesian culture through ‘kretek’. Kretek is a clove scented cigarette which is inspired by Indonesian natural herbs and is said to be smoother but more toxic than the average commercial cigarette. Cigarette companies were aware of how Kretek played on Indonesian culture and thus, saw further opportunities with it. These companies invested greatly into marketing strategies, sponsoring national sporting events and even educational scholarships (Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, University of Manchester, 2018). They were successful with using mainstream marketing as a strategy because unlike Australia, Indonesia does not have a cigarette advertising ban. In a GATS survey, 82.5% Indonesians reported seeing a cigarette promotion (GATS, 2012).
Cheap and easy access to cigarettes go hand in hand with Indonesia’s poverty rate. Over ‘30 million’ Indonesians live in poverty and ’43.4 million’ youths are unemployed, West Java having the highest unemployment rate of 60%. When there is no employment, education is neglected which results in the population being un-educated to the consequence of smoking. This can be particularly dangerous in a place like Java as more than half of the nation’s tobacco is produced in East Java (Santi Martíni and Muji Sulistyowati, 2005). Perhaps, Java’s cultural hub Yogyakarta could also play a factoring role in the tobacco market there too as it is known for its island culture. Similarly, Surabaya, a city in East Java known for its organised youth gangs and homelessness could also add to the popularity of tobacco usage.
With tobacco having such a big part of their culture and high unemployment rates, it is no surprise the government sees no interest in promoting tobacco use less as it is profiting for them and employment in the tobacco industry.
Matteo Carlo Alcano, 2014, Youth Gangs and Streets in Surabaya, East Java: Growth, Movement and Places in the Context of Urban Transformations, viewed 25 November 2019, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307744782_Youth_Gangs_and_Streets_in_Surabaya_East_Java_Growth_Movement_and_Places_in_the_Context_of_Urban_Transformations.
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat and Dikanaya Tarahita, 2018, As the Rest of the World Quits, Indonesia’s Smokers Increase, asia sentinel, viewed 26 November 2019, https://www.asiasentinel.com/econ-business/indonesia-smokers-increase/.
Nathalia Tjandra, 2018, Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, viewed 26 November 2019, https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/06/04/indonesias-lax-smoking-laws-are-helping-next-generation-to-get-hooked.html.
Tobacco free kids, 2012, Survey: Indonesia Has Highest Male Smoking Rate in the World, viewed 23 November 2019, https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/blog/2012_09_12_indonesia.
Santi Martini and Muji Sulistyowati, 2005, The Determinants of Smoking Behavior among Teenagers in East Java Province, Indonesia, viewed 24 November 2019, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/13781/347660IND0YouthSmoking0HNP0Tobacco032.pdf;sequence=1
WHO, 2019, WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, viewed 24 November 2019, https://www.who.int/tobacco/surveillance/policy/country_profile/idn.pdf.
Youth Hub Indonesia, 2019, Challenge, Emotive, viewed 26 November 2019, https://www.emotiveprogram.org/challenge/rural-hub/youth-hub-indonesia/
Youtube, 2012, Children smoking in Indonesia, ABC, viewed 26 November 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcsdt468C_0.
Youtube, 2017, Iklan GG Mild 2017 style of new generation, viewed 26 November 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=_ulaZYgXzdM&feature=emb_title.