POST A: Design Activism

Design plays a significant role in any matter, as it constructs the perceptions held by the public. In Indonesia, design is utilised as a tool to further tobacco consumerism, manifesting in advertisements. Due to the lack of regulations enforced by the Indonesian government, tobacco advertising is consequently extremely effective (Nichter et al. 2009). As tobacco companies are politically and financially powerful within the country, bringing large sources of government revenue, the Indonesian government is therefore reluctant to place restrictions upon the tobacco industry (Nichter et al. 2009). The government’s support for tobacco can therefore be seen by their refusal to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), making Indonesia the only country in South East Asia which has not signed the treaty (Prabandari et al. 2015).

For the global studio in Ambon, we as designers had the difficult task of raising awareness of tobacco’s detrimental effects through design activism. My group produced a mural which requested audience participation for its completion, spreading awareness and encouraging support for the establishment of a smoke-free environment. For our design project, the involvement of Vital Strategies was essential to executing our plan, an organisation who partners with the government to create and implement public health initiatives (Vital Strategies 2018).

Figure 1: mural promoting a smoke-free environment

Furthermore, as the government supports tobacco industries, much of the health promotion against tobacco activity in Indonesia is carried out instead by non-government organisations, including public health and medical associations (Barraclough 1999). This is exemplified by the willingness of the local Puskesmas to cooperate with us to spread anti-tobacco awareness.

Resembling Indonesia’s large market for tobacco, Australia’s billion-dollar alcohol industry similarly poses as a major issue that invites design activism (Ditchburn 2018). The founders of the start-up Sparkke sought to challenge the direction of the Australian alcohol industry which they found too “male, pale and stale” with what they perceived as “downright misogynistic ads” (Ditchburn 2018). Instead, Sparkke seeks to push boundaries and spark conversations about prevalent social issues. To do this, Sparkke created a range of 6 canned drinks, consisting of slogans that bring awareness to important social issues, such as sexual consent, asylum seekers and the date of Australia or Invasion Day (Blandford 2018). Sparkke also donates 10% of direct sales to social causes (Ditchburn 2018). Although Sparkke’s love of pushing boundaries and the company’s social activism attracts its natural market of the millennials (Ditchburn 2018), the company still faces many challenges including the inevitable backlash it received from such strong messages (Blandford 2018).

Figure 2: Sparkke canned beverage (Verity 2018)



Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327-332.

Blandford, M. 2018, Sparkke beer and wine company shakes up the local alcohol industry with its provocative labels, Good Food, viewed 31st January 2019, <;.

Ditchburn, E. 2018, How Female-led Startup Sparkke Advocates Social Change with Booze, Collective Hub, viewed 31st January 2019, <;.

Prabandari Y., Nichter M., Nichter M., Padmawathi R. & Muramoto M. 2015, ‘Laying the groundwork for Tobacco Cessation Education in medical colleges in Indonesia’, Education for Health, vol. 28, no. 3, p. 169.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 98-107.

Vital Strategies 2018, About Us, USA, viewed 31st January 2019, <;.


Verity 2018, Sparkke Change Beverage Co., viewed 31st January 2019, <;.


POST C: Ninik’s perspective

Ninik, 25 years-old is a general practitioner in Ambon, who agrees that a significant portion of the Ambonese population are habitual smokers (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). Although, an insufficient amount of time in the 4 years of medical college in Indonesia is devoted to the harms of tobacco (Prabandari 2015), Ninik is fully aware of the effects and actively persuades the people around her to refrain from smoking. Ninik believes that the reason why Ambonese men smoke is to release stress, especially while they are working, causing it to become an addictive and detrimental habit.

Figure 1: men smoking in Ambon

She suggests that people often start smoking in junior high school, around the age of 14 and continue to the practice for their whole lives. In Australia, a customer must be at least 18 years of age with valid identification to purchase cigarettes (Youth Law Australia 2018). I therefore asked if there was a similar age limit imposed on buying cigarettes in Indonesia. Ninik responded with no, as children frequently buy cigarettes for their parents, shopkeepers thus do not question children of their motives for purchasing cigarettes. Prabandari concurs, stating that the initiation of smoking in Indonesia begins at a young age, with 18% even reporting to have begun between the ages of 10 and 14 (Prabandari 2015).

Figure 2: young boys smoking in a park in Ambon

Although most smokers in Indonesia are male and it is commonly held that females do not smoke, a few women do take up the practice (Barraclough 1999). When questioned whether women smoke, Ninik however answered “not really” and “not at all” (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). This is because Ninik believes that Muslims see smoking as a “useless thing” that they should not attempt (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). After subsequent research, I discovered that the use of tobacco for Islamic believers is haram, forbidden (Huda 2018). Despite that, many Muslims still smoke as the opinion that smoking is haram is still moderately new and thus not all Muslims have adopted it as a cultural norm (Huda 2018).

Furthermore, Ninik also stressed the detrimental effects of second-hand smoking, which is worse than primary smoking. This is a serious issue as the harm of second-hand smoke is little recognised within Indonesia (Permitasari 2018), resulting in men regularly smoking in enclosed spaces, such as mini-buses and trains (Barraclough 1999). Furthermore, 85% of male smokers also smoke within the home daily, exposing their family members to harmful consequences (Prabandari 2015). The interview with Ninik and research allowed me to gain deeper insights into the tobacco situation in Ambon and Indonesia.

Figure 3: photo with Ninik (second from left)



Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327-332.

Huda 2018, Is Smoking Allowed in Islam?, ThoughtCo, viewed 29 Janurary 2019, <;.

Permitasari A.L., Satibi S. & Kristina, S.A. 2018, ‘National burden of cancer attributable to secondhand smoking in Indonesia’, Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, vol. 19, no. 7, pp. 1951-1955.

Prabandari Y., Nichter M., Nichter M., Padmawathi R. & Muramoto M. 2015, ‘Laying the groundwork for Tobacco Cessation Education in medical colleges in Indonesia’, Education for Health, vol. 28, no. 3, p. 169.

Youth Law Australia 2018, Cigarettes, Australia, viewed 30th January 2019, <;.



POST D: Smoking, A Male Act?


Tobacco usage is a significant problem in Indonesia, as Indonesia has the 5th largest market for tobacco consumption in the world (Nichter et al. 2009) and tobacco companies are the government’s main source of revenue after oil, gas and timber (Reynolds 1999). Tobacco consumption is also highly prevalent in Ambon as exemplified by data depicting that the highest food expenditure in Ambon is rice, followed by fish, cigarette, vegetable and sugar (Girsang & Nanere 2016).

But why has tobacco remained so prominent? One major reason is that Indonesia can be referred to as an “advertiser’s paradise” due to the lack of restrictions on tobacco marketing and advertising (Nichter et al. 2009). Tobacco advertisement in Indonesia is also amid the most aggressive and innovative worldwide (Nichter et al. 2009). This is supported by my observation of the average Ambon streets, occupied by an abundance of tobacco advertisements, mostly in the form of banners and posters (Baraclough 1999, Nichter et al. 2009).

Furthermore, one notable aspect of tobacco culture in Ambon is that the clear majority of smokers I witnessed were middle-aged men. In fact, all smokers that I noticed during my mapping exercise were male. As Barraclough believes that advertising is having a “very real impact” on Indonesians who smoke (Barraclough 1999), I noticed that tobacco advertisements clearly targets the male population.

Figure 1: group of men sitting and smoking on the streets of Ambon

As I walked around the city, I noticed that Indonesian tobacco advertisements, both on banners and packaging often incorporate themes of masculinity and individuality (Barraclough 1999) by utilising bold imagery, fonts, colours and other design choices. The common colour-scheme used is red, black and white with some brands selecting blue. Nichter believes that key themes of the Indonesian tobacco advertisement include the controlling of emotions, depicting smoking as a tool to enhance masculinity and uphold traditional values while simultaneously highlighting modernity (Nichter et al 2009).

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Figure 2: series of tobacco advertisements displayed on the streets of Ambon

Women on the other hand are instead discouraged to smoke, made evident by the lack of tobacco advertising directly targeting women (Barraclough 1999). Thus, the lack of women I witnessed smoking was due to cultural values which stigmatise women smokers as morally flawed whilst simultaneously endorsing smoking by their male counterparts (Barraclough 1999). As it is not culturally acceptable for Indonesian women to smoke, women therefore rarely smoke, apart from women deemed as “bad”, wealthy women and some in Jakarta offices who take up the act as a symbol of their growing independence (Barraclough 1999).

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Figure 3: the map I created from my walk / mapping exercise



Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327-332.

Girsang, W. & Nanere, M. 2016, ‘Profiles and causes of urban poverty in small islands: a case in Ambon City, Maluku Islands Indonesia’, International Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 18-27.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 98-107.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia, “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 85-88.



POST B: Canada’s Plain Packaging

Tobacco control is a significant issue worldwide. In effects to tackle this issue, the Canadian government introduced new national regulations, implementing a plain and standardised appearance for all tobacco packaging and certain tobacco products (Government of Canada 2018). Under these regulations, all tobacco packaging must have a consistent overall appearance in terms of font and colour as well as standardised size and shape (Government of Canada 2018). Furthermore, brand colours, logos and other images are also no longer permitted (Government of Canada 2018). These new designs are expected to be seen on store shelves from 2019 (Cunningham 2018).

Plain Packaging: proposed cigarette packaging by the World Health Organisation (Directo 2011)

This transdisciplinary initiative imposes a variety of costs on the tobacco industry and government of Canada, estimated to range from $138-$195 million in total (Government of Canada 2018). However, the warning labels proves to be an extremely cost-effective educational intervention when compared to other measures such as mass media campaigns (Thrasher et al. 2007).

Under the public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) adopted by World Health Organisation, it is insisted that warning information in the form of image, text or both must consist of at least 30% of the front and back of cigarette packaging (Kees et al. 2006). As a party of FCTC, Canada already includes both visual warnings of graphic disease and text warnings (Hammond et al. 2007), proving to be extremely effective as the visual messages can reach the illiterate population (Thrasher et al. 2007) whilst provoking negative emotions such as fear and anxiety (Kees et al. 2006). Furthermore, research showed that the health warning is effective as Canadian smokers reported higher levels of awareness when compared to the United States, which only include text warnings on packages (Hammond et al. 2007).

Branded tobacco packaging (Angelillo 2018)

The visual text warnings coupled with the new plain packaging regulations are expected to be a success, proving to be the world’s “best and most comprehensive” plain packaging requirements (Cunningham 2018). Furthermore, research projects funded by Ontario Tobacco Research Unit suggests that ‘plain’ packaging may reduce brand appeal and thus susceptibility to smoking among young women (Doxey & Hammond 2011). Findings also suggest that standardised cigarette packaging may decrease demand and reduce misleading insights about product harm among the young (Kotnowski et al. 2016). Although the full results from this initiative is yet to be seen, the Canadian Cancer Society is already commending the new tobacco plain packaging as the most effective worldwide (Cunningham 2018).



Cunningham, R. 2018, ‘Canada to have the world’s best tobacco plain packaging requirements’, Canada Cancer Society, viewed 10 January 2019, <;.

Doxey, J. & Hammond, D. 2011, ‘Deadly in pink: the impact of cigarette packaging among young women’, Tobacco Control, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 353-360.

Government of Canada 2018, Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 153, Number 25: Tobacco Products Regulations (Plain and Standarized Appearance), Canada, viewed 9 January 2019, <;.

Hammond, D., Fong, G., Borland, R., Cummings, M., McNeill, A., Driezen, P. 2007, ‘Text and graphic warnings on cigarette packages: findings from the international tobacco control four country study’, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 202-209.

Kees, J., Burton, S., Andrews, C. & Kozup, J. 2006, ‘Tests of graphic visuals and cigarette package warning combinations: implications for the framework convention on tobacco control’, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 212-223.

Kotnowski, K., Fong, G., Gallopel-Morvan, K., Islam, T., Hammond, D. 2016, ‘The impact of cigarette packaging design among young females in Canada: findings from a discrete choice experiment’, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 1348-1356.

Thrasher, J., Hammond, D., Fong, G., Arillo-Santillan, E. 2007, ‘Smokers’ reaction to cigarette package warnings with graphic imagery and with only text: a comparison between Mexico and Canada’, Salud Publica de Mexico, vol. 29, no. 2.



Angelillo, J. 2018, File Photo, UPI, viewed 10 Jan 2019, <;.

Directo, J. 2011, Cigarette Packaging, Sault Online, viewed 10 Jan 2019, <;.