Since arriving home after a two-week trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, it is evident to me that smoking has become a large part of Indonesian culture- particularly amongst young boys and men. When I interviewed Priyo, a 19-year-old young man passing by in Malioboro, I asked him if he smoked, and he said yes, with the main reason being that most of his friends around him smoked. Priyo had started smoking around the age of 17, and whilst this may initially seem like an alarmingly young age to begin smoking, this is nothing compared to the copious amounts of children as young as preschool aged being introduced to smoking, with the poster child for Indonesia’s tobacco culture being a two-year-old boy who smokes 40 cigarettes a day. (Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, 2011).
This is a common factor for why many young boys in Indonesia start smoking at such a young age, through the influence of friends and family. When asked about whether or not he would ever consider quitting smoking and if so what would be the reasons, Priyo had said that he has considered quitting smoking before, however “when I hang out with my friends I am certainly affected by it”, and therefore chooses not to quit. This is one of many cases in which the influence of peers has influenced the decision of many young boys to start smoking long term, as the Health Education Research journal (Volume 22, Issue 6, 2007) case study on Javanese smoking culture by Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall and A. Ohman found in their research that when interviewing young boys about the use of tobacco, they emphasised that smoking is common everywhere among men and that this has been the case ever since tobacco was first smoked. At home at least one of their family members smoked and in their social life most of their friends were smokers. Smoking has also found to be associated with masculinity in Javanese culture, with smoking being associated with bravery, and that “if we don’t follow our peers and smoke, they will call us feminine” (Ng, Weinehall, Ohman, 2007).
Priyo’s story is no exception, as him and his group of friends regularly meet in Malioboro in the evenings to hang out and smoke with nothing else to do, which was a common sight for me among my visits to Malioboro to see groups of young boys smoking together.
Unknown Author, 2011, In Indonesia, Rampant Smoking Begins at an Early Age, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, https://seatca.org/in-indonesia-rampant-smoking-begins-at-early-age-130611/
Nawi NG, Weinehall. L, Ohman. A, 2006, ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking, Health Education Research Journal Volume 22, Issue 6, Oxford Academic Website, https://academic.oup.com/her/article/22/6/794/640787