Tobacco is an intrinsic part of Indonesian culture and social interaction. Due to this, social pressure can be an extreme influence and a prevalent source of anxiety for those trying to quit or avoid smoking. Particularly for young men, this pressure is also associated with masculinity, undoubtedly a product of decades of specifically targeted advertising (Reynolds 1999). Through research surrounding smoke-free university campuses and the emotional triggers for smoking, it has become clear that the anxiety provoked by smoking culture and the oppositional desire to quit is an essential factor to consider when tackling the tobacco crisis.
Budi is a 21-year-old accounting student at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, despite attempting to quit in the past, his continual addiction reveals the struggle that faces most young smokers. Although he admits that both him and his friends are aware of the dangers of smoking, he has found it difficult to abstain from it, as “It is too hard to avoid.” Throughout our interview, he continually emphasised the social expectations for smoking, reflecting that in many social situations it gives him a sense of belonging. This feeling is likely owing to the extensive advertising throughout Indonesia that associates cigarettes with traditional masculine lifestyles (Reynolds 1999). Furthermore, he also noted that he felt “out of place” in these social gatherings during the brief periods when he had tried to quit, increasing the sense of loneliness that can cause people to relapse into smoking.
The anxiety that Budi felt around smoking and quitting is very understandable. He also relayed that in October, a health survey had been conducted at the university, wherein anxiety was found to be the prevalent issue. Budi revealed that the way the university dealt with students breaking the no-smoking policy, was an additional source of stress for those trying to quit, as the academic penalties would then increase their desire to smoke due to the associated emotional triggers (stress, anxiety) (Smokefree 2019). As with many smokers, Budi and his friends often smoked as a form of relaxation (Nichter Met al 2009) . However, studies have shown that smoking doesn’t provide mood control benefits, but instead creates exaggerated feelings of depression and stress (Parrot 2004) which smokers unfortunately address through continual smoking.
Through observing the case of Budi, as well as the trends at UMY and broader research, the link between anxiety and the desire to smoke becomes heightened. Particularly when focusing on the tobacco hotspot that is Indonesia, the effect of a cultural habit continually supported via prevalent advertising and a lack of personal support is altogether too clear.
Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Prabandari, Y., Ng, N., Danardono, M. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisments in Indonesia,’ Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 2, viewed 26 November 2019, < https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/18/2/98 >.
Parrott, A. C. (2004). Heightened Stress and Depression Follow Cigarette Smoking. Psychological Reports, vol. 94, no.1, pp. 33–34, viewed 18 December 2019, <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.2466/pr0.94.1.33-34>.
Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 1, viewed 26 November 2019, <https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/8/1/85>.
Smoke Free, Know your triggers, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, United States, viewed 18 December 2019, <https://smokefree.gov/challenges-when-quitting/cravings-triggers/know-your-triggers>.