Despite the wide spread awareness of the health issues related to tobacco, many young Indonesians continue to pick up smoking from an early age. Through interviewing students on campus and conducting research into scholarly studies, it became apparent that one the biggest contributing factor to this pattern is due to social pressure, and a lack of systems in place to prevent people from picking up and maintaining the habit.
Second year business student at UMY, Budi, expressed his clear understanding that smoking was bad for his health, and that he thought it would be much better if there was no smoking. Upon being asked why he did it, he said it was a social thing. He started at 15 because his friends were, and he maintains the habit mostly in the breaks in between classes and after university. This story is one common to many young adolescents across Indonesia. A study conducted among 6276 students in Semarang found that smoking behaviour of best friends was one of the strongest indicator of smoking, across all age groups (De Clercq et. al. 1999). While bullying, stress and not liking school had little to no impact on whether they smoked.
Although UMY is a smoke free campus, a social culture around tobacco is still ever prevalent. I caught Budi and his friend sharing a cigarette behind his building on campus near the car park, an activity they both knew was not allowed, however partook in as they had time to kill. Upon being asked what is would take to make him stop smoking, he stated that he ‘thinks a sign isn’t important today’, just telling people not to smoke wont make change. The fundamental issue lies in deep rooted culture around smoking, and the accessibility of tobacco in Indonesia (Martini & Sulistyowati 2005).
Despite the leniency of Indonesian government regulations on tobacco, all packaging and marketing do carry a health warning (Hull et. al. 2012). This usually features a graphic image, depicting one of the many side-effects. While this movement has been successful in educating people of the impact smoking can cause, it has lead to the desensitisation of such images and warnings. It is one step to educate a nation of the risk they are taking when they partake in an activity, but you cannot expect long-term behavioural change without the implementation of systems to help aid this transition.
- De Clercq, L., Haryanti, K., Maes, L., Smet, B. & Winarno, R. 1999, ’Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 186-191.
- Hull, T., McDonald, P., Reimondos, A., Suparno, H., Utomo, A., & Utomo, I.D., 2012. ‘Smoking and young adults in Indonesia’, Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, The Australian National University.
- Martini, S. & Sulistyowati, M. 2005, ‘The determinants of smoking behaviour among teenagers in East Java province, Indonesia’, Economics of Tobacco Control, vol. 1, no. 32.