After months of research, I finally witnessed Indonesia’s tobacco culture first-hand, after recently returning from a two week adventure to Java, Indonesia. From vivid billboards and consistent banner displays of tobacco advertising to the tourist attraction of Malioboro Street, covered with smokers who continue to contribute to the existing second-hand smoke within the area. The problem of tobacco in Indonesia is certainly one that is wicked and complex. I sat down with Dhohri, a Yogyakarta local and staff member at the hotel Jogja Village Inn to gain more insight on the issue and a supposed “way of life.”
I first met Dhohri when going out for lunch to Jogja Village Inn’s ‘Secang Bistro’ with a bunch of other individuals also on the university studio. His welcoming and friendly nature created an inviting presence and was a reflection of the kind-spirited and hospitable Indonesian folk I had already met across my travels. Shocked by the number of young tourists in front of him, he was interested in knowing about our visit to Yogyakarta. When I responded with “a project on tobacco” he looked in confusion and asked “why would you come to Indonesia to study tobacco?” After explaining how tobacco is a huge issue in Indonesia and our motive was to create design ideas that implement anti-smoking, he agreed that the majority of Indonesians are smokers and continued to add that “smoking pollutes the air”, highlighting smoking’s affect on others. To date, there are about 66 million active smokers and approximately 90 million passive smokers. (Afifa, 2019) Vital Strategies powerful campaign #SuaraTanpaRokok (Voices without Cigarettes) included a video of the recently deceased spokesman Pak Topo, who targeted smokers stating “I’m not a smoker. There are no smokers in my family. I also lead a healthy lifestyle… Maybe one of the causes [of my lung cancer] was that I’m a passive smoker…” (Topo, 2018)
In my conversation with Dhohri, I continued to ask him about his personal lifestyle. I learnt that he was a non-smoker and had a wife and two children. His 15 year old son also does not smoke because he attends an “educated and international school,” further implying that ones education and socioeconomic status correlates to the odds of smoking. A 2018 study has shown that adolescents in the poorest quintile had more than twice the odds of smoking compared with adolescents from the richest quintile (Global Health Action, 2018) When questioned as to why he doesn’t smoke he responded that “it is not healthy” and mentioned that Indonesians are ill informed of the health impacts. However, he went on to add that “smoking is a tradition…it is a way of life…many do it socially.” Laughing in response to my question of what could we could do to change the smoking scene, he said “it is too difficult to change…”
Afifa, N., 2019, ‘Secondhand Smoke Is Much More Than Just a Smelly Nuisance’, Jakarta Globe, Jakarta, viewed 19th December 2019, <https://jakartaglobe.id/context/secondhand-smoke-is-much-more-than-just-a-smelly-nuisance>.
Cahya, G., 2019, ”I’m a passive smoker’: Sutopo leaves powerful warning against smoking before death’, The Jakarta Post, viewed 19th December 2019, <https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/07/09/im-a-passive-smoker-sutopo-leaves-powerful-warning-against-smoking-before-death.html>.
Kusumawardani,N., Tarigan, I., Schlotheuber, A., 2018, ‘Socio-economic, demographic and geographic correlates of cigarette smoking among Indonesian adolescents: results from the 2013 Indonesian Basic Health Research (RISKESDAS) survey’, Global Health Action, vol.11, viewed 19th December 2019,<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5990951/>.