POST C: Religion and smoking in Ambon?

In order to get a better understanding of Ambonese culture and the effects of smoking had on Ambon, I interviewed Arif, a small family restaurant owner in Ambon whose venue is one of the few that is strictly smoke-free.

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Figure 1. Arif standing in front of his smoke-free restaurant. Photographer: Yllianna Maneze.


I was interested in gaining an insight into Ambonese culture as well as history and whether there was a connection between religion and smoking culture, as Arif claimed the reason he didn’t allow smoking in his restaurant because it was the ‘House of the Lord’. A study done claims that those who participate in a high amount of religious activities have a higher chance of be a non-smoker (Widyaningrum & Yu 2018; U.S Department of State 2010). As we were conversing about Ambonese culture, he stated that the people were very communal and there were many mixed races and religions which is true for most of Indonesia. He also brought up the riots that occurred in Ambon during 1999. These riots were an ethnopolitical conflict triggered by a relatively minor fight between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim youth. The real reason is still unclear, but Arif states that there was a looming ethnoreligious tension in the city, predominately between the Christian and Muslim. The neighbourhoods used to be a mixing pot of ethnicities and religion, but post-war Arif described it like a ‘shadow’ dividing the city.

It was interesting how Arif brought up the darker past of Ambon when I asked him about smoking. Thinking in a wider context, Indonesia unites over 200 million people with over 300 ethnicities, 250 languages and 6,000 islands. One would believe that with such a wide range of cultures there would be many different types of faiths however, only 6 religions are officially recognised by the government (U.S Department of State 2010).

Some groups have turned to religion to stop smoking which has become portrayed as rooted into Indonesian culture and tradition. For example, Islamic groups have tried to ban smoking as forbidden under Islam and united with anti-smoking lobbies to stop tobacco sponsored events. Arif states that the bibles teachings preach that smoking is bad for you, he also knows passive smoking has harmful effects and because of his strong family values he chooses not to smoke. Religion could possibly be an overlooked aspect to incorporate into a non-smoking campaign.



Bebas Bernapas 2019, “Meet Arif”, Instagram post, 23 January, viewed 24 January 2019, <;.

U.S Department of State 2010, International Religious Freedom Report 2010, viewed 30 January 2019, <>.

Widyaningrum, N. & Yu, J. 2018, ‘Tobacco Use Among the Adult Muslim Population in Indonesia: A Preliminary Study on Religion, Cultural, and Socioeconomic Factors’, Journal of Drug Issues,   vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 676-88.


POST A: Design activism challenges. A comparison of tobacco advertising between Indonesia and the USA.

The tobacco industry has had great success in Indonesia now being the 2nd largest tobacco market in the world (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 2017). Designers play a major role in this by shaping the identity of the tobacco branding through packaging and promotion to mislead consumers away from its negative health effects. Current trends in the market advertise cigarettes as mild or low-tar, for example since 2002 the major brand Gudang Guram in Indonesia has the GG mild brand to cater to changing consumer preferences. This demonstrates some of the strategies designers utilise to keep their consumers loyal to the brand.

The big Indonesian tobacco company Sampoerna hosted a ‘Go Ahead Challenge’ competition which involved designing a limited edition A Mild cigarette package (Astuti, Assunta & Freeman 2018). The winning design was a red fingerprint with the tag “Go Ahead, be yourself and be brave!”. Through their website over a million people voted for the design indicating the large community of active users. These tactics allow the tobacco industry to be heavily rooted in Indonesian youth culture, the economy and politics.

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Figure 1. Sampoerna website displaying the winning design of a competition to design a cigarette packet. The middle image is the designed packet. To the right is the inside of the packet with a description of the design and the tagline.


In the case of tobacco control, Indonesia is one of the few countries that is not WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WFTC) compliant, on the other hand, the USA is WFTC compliant. When the toxicity of tobacco was unclear in the past, many people in the USA were sold by the idea of smoking through revolutionary tobacco companies’ advertisements. The American cigarette brand Marlboro was the company to utilise ‘lifestyle advertising’, a type of advertisement that ties the product to an aspect of life. The tv advertisement depicts Marlboro man, a fictional persona became the archetype of manliness and freedom and it was a highly successful. This kind of powerful lifestyle advertising is still seen today in Indonesian cigarette ads. The difference is that in the USA, nicotine advertisements like Marlboro Man were banned from television and radio in 1970 (White, Oliffe & Bottorff 2012), however in Indonesia advertisements are still allowed to be played on television after prime time.

Designers face the challenge of not only fighting the constructed image of tobacco but also all the stakeholders, such as smokers, the tobacco industry, sellers, buyers, etc. Julier puts forward that design activism is something that begins in social, environmental and political issues and the designer’s role is to ‘intervene funtionally’ in them (Julier 2013). The US national campaign, ‘truth’ is dedicated to empowering youth to become more knowledgeable about big tobacco and helping them quit. They focus on pop culture, community and the environment, through events and utilising social media to make an engaging site for youth to access is something to learn from.


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Figure 2. Screenshot of the ‘truth’ site. #IDRATHERBUY is highlighted.


Astuti, P.A.S., Assunta, M. & Freeman, B. 2018, ‘Raising generation ‘A’: a case study of millennial tobacco company marketing in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 27, no. e1, pp. e49.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 2017, The Toll of Tobacco in Indonesia, viewed 30 January 2019, <;.

Julier, G. 2013, ‘From Design Culture to Design Activism’, Design and Culture, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 215-36.

truth Take Action, viewed 30 January 2019, <;.

White, C., Oliffe, J.L. & Bottorff, J.L. 2012, ‘From the Physician to the Marlboro Man’, Men and Masculinities, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 526-47.


POST D: Tobacco Advertising lethal to youth of Ambon

The culture of Tobacco advertising in Ambon is highly confrontational and strategical. Ambon is entrenched with a long history of Tobacco culture dating all the way back to the early 16th century. Ambon is a part of the Eastern Islands of Indonesia also known as the Spice Islands which were sought after by European countries battling the plague with Nutmeg. Ambon and the other Islands were rich with these spices as well as cloves, a main component of today’s cigarettes sold in Indonesia. The data from an initiative Continue reading