POST A: An analysis of Problematic Design and ethical incentives

In Indonesia design played a large role in the prevalence of smoking amongst young men through the marketing of aspirational narratives and construction of ‘cooler’ and more manly social identities that primed young boys for smoking later in life (Ng. et al., 2007), in so far that smoking is utilised in the negotiations of social standing amongst men. This was done through advertising campaigns in public space and through various media campaigns (TV, print, etc,), sponsorships and packaging designs. Even today, tobacco companies have increased efforts to market to a new market of women through the use of ‘light’ cigarettes, with feminine ’ packaging, and through a narratives about being ‘with it’ along with feminism and independence based on the target demographic (Hitchman & Fong, 2011).

Australia owns 20% of the worlds electronic gaming machines (Mercer 2018), known colloquially as the pokies. Electronic gaming companies and establishments consider themselves ethical providers through their participation in CSR activities (Yani-de-Soriano, Javed & Yousafzai, 2012) and governments play an active role in gambling regulation in all states of Australia. NSW by far has the highest concentrations of pokie machines, with a loss per capita around 50% higher than the national average.

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Image Above: (Donnison 2015)

Studies have shown that pokies addictions have significant negative effects on the mental and physical well-being of problem gamblers, with one Australian committing suicide a day due to gambling related harm. So why do these companies exist? The government’s reliance on tax revenue and CSR initiatives funded by gambling streams i (Yani-de-Soriano, Javed and Yousafzai, 2012) are often cited as barriers to change in policy in the industry to priorities harm reduction over profit maximisation. Pokie interface and hardware designs are colourful and bright, and utilise various game design and psychological principles to increase dopamine and addiction amongst users.

When designers participate in these sorts of projects that fundamentally impact people’s lives, they do have a share in the responsibility of these outcomes that have clear ethical implications. Yet there are no universal design ethics guidelines or manifestos. Often in business the economics and legalities of decisions are thoroughly scrutinized, but in the past it has been typical for businesses to pay less attention to the ethical implications of such activities as there were no real incentives to do so beyond personal affect. Through events such as the American financial scandals of the early 21st century leading companies into financial distress, organisations have become more aware of the impacts to business these decisions can have (Koumbiadis, 2014). The same can be said for design where tangible benefits and flow on effects of ethics are often held up as justification for decisions that may be more costly in the short term.

How we can incentivise ethics in design is a big issue in the 21st century, and it will be interesting to see what further developments can be made to push an approach that often goes against business and sometimes even Government objectives, as seen in our study of Tobacco in Indonesia and Pokies in Australia.


Donnison, J. 2015, The high cost of Australia’s addiction to ‘pokies’, BBC, viewed December 21 2018, <;.

Hitchman, S. & Fong, G. 2011, Gender empowerment and female-to-male smoking prevalence ratios 2018, Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, vol 89, no 3, pp. 161 – 240.

Koumbiadis, N. 2014, ‘Morality, ethical awareness and ethical behavior in business: challenges for twenty-first century organizations’,  Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, vol 10, no 2.

Mercer, P. 2018, Australia’s escalating gambling addiction, BBC News, viewed 21 December 2018, <;.

Ng, N., Prabandari, Y., Padmawati, R., Okah, F., Haddock, C., Nichter, M., Nichter, M., Muramoto, M., Poston, W., Pyle, S., Mahardinata, N. and Lando, H. 2007, ‘Physician assessment of patient smoking in Indonesia: a public health priority’, Tobacco Control, vol 16, no 3, pp.190-196.

Yani-de-Soriano, M., Javed, U. and Yousafzai, S. 2012, ‘Can an Industry Be Socially Responsible If Its Products Harm Consumers? The Case of Online Gambling’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol 110, no 4, pp.481-497,.

POST C: Marriage Norms in Lombok

Romi is a 29 year old Indonesian woman who works in a private villa on Gili Island in Lombok. Her daily routine involves rising at 6am to get holy water for prayer, before showering and beginning work at 7am. Like most people on the island, she takes a break during the midday heat before returning in the afternoon for the second shift of the day. She lives in the staffhouse behind the villa but goes back to Lombok for 2 days every fortnight to stay with family and rest between working stints.


She mentions that her long term plans are to work and then marry in the next couple of years, though she does not have a particular love interest in mind. She says this quite matter of factly. She explained that in her village a lot of women marry at around sixteen, some as young as twelve, something she suggested may be because of a lack of opportunities but also simply because it’s the usual expectation. In Australia it goes without saying that to marry at the age of twelve is taboo and decidedly socially unacceptable, but in Indonesia marriage ages have typically always been low (for women in particular) compared to other asian countries (Jones, 2005). In 2000 the median age country wide for an Indonesian woman to marry rose to 23, but in some ethnic groups the average age is still below 18 (Jones 2001, 2004). This is often seen as being a result of multiple factors, one being the Indonesian focus on the family as a centre of social and economic activity, and uxorilocality (typically Javanese and Sundanese) through to virilocality (Balinese and Batak) as the norms.

While most of us reading would be well versed in the distinctions between ‘law’ and manners, customs, etc., in non-western countries there is not often a clear distinction. What we can see though is that a sense of justice and it’s administration are universal in every society (Prins, 1951). ‘Adat’ law refers to the local customs and ethnicity-based laws still highly relevant in Indonesia today. As an extraordinarily diverse country, Adat laws are also mirrored in the many different Adat systems in use throughout localities within the Archipelago (Buttenheim & Nobles, 2009). Typically in local communities nominated residents are seen as ‘Adat’ experts, to be consulted in such matters if needed. These laws are still a particularly persistent influence on marriage behaviours, despite being a country in the throws of rapid socio-economic development and ‘modernization’. In fact, many scholars note a rise in prevalence of Adat law as perhaps being a reactionary push againt state government efforts to unite Indonesia through central controls at the expense of local customs (Buttenheim & Nobles, 2009). Today Adat laws are seen as legitimate sources of power, and are used in local decision making.  


Interestingly enough, I found out that Romi’s parents were tobacco farmers on mainland Lombok. She used big hand expressions to explain the process of trimming back the plants and then harvesting the leaves. Last year was not a good harvest due to dry weather, though she said in a good year they can make a lot of money. When I asked if she smoked she laughed at me, saying “of course not, it’s bad for your health!”. She also had no particular opinions on Tobacco Industries, plainly saying that they are good because they create work.

In speaking with Romi and other Indonesians from a range of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, I would not like to generalise but I can see how social standing has an influence on every facet of behaviour and decision making. From what is considered the norms for marriage, through to having to make harsh decisions that impact health and wellbeing in a trade off with work and money. It’s been a humbling experience, but also one that raises more questions than answers, in a country with such complex local (Adat), state and religious (Islamic) tensions simultaneously shaping the country. I think there is value in knowing that there is much you do not yet understand, and to keep in mind that each locality has its own deeply embedded cultures and complex factors at play. 



Buttenheim, A. & Nobles, J. 2009, ‘Ethnic diversity, traditional norms, and marriage behaviour in Indonesia’, Population Studies, vol 63, no 3, pp. 277 – 294.

Jones, G. 2001, ‘Which Indonesian women marry youngest, and why?’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, vol 32, no. 1, pp. 67 – 78.

Jones, G. 2004, (Un) tying the Knot: Ideal and Reality in Asian Marriage, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore, pp. 3-58.

Jones, G. 2005, ‘The ‘flight from marriage’ in South- East and East Asia’, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol 36, no 1, pp. 93 – 119.

Prins, J. 1951, ‘Adatlaw and Muslim Religious Law in Modern Indonesia: An Introduction’, Die Welt des Islams, vol 1, no 4, pp. 283 – 300.

Post D: Tobacco culture in local contexts: Surabaya’s Arab Quarter


Once a central Dutch Indies port-town, Surabaya became a multi-ethnic melting pot as the promise of work attracted migrants from all over the world. This rich history can be seen today walking down the bustling side streets of the Ampel Arab quarter, a legacy of the Dutch enforced segregation of ethnicities into kampongs (neighbourhoods). Here, generations of Indonesian descendants live and work, with some still practicing the Arabic and Islamic traditions of their ancestors.



Image Above: A mapping of our route around the Arab quarter. It is read clockwise from the 9 o’clock position.

Starting our walk outside Sarkam Coffee shop at 87 Jalan Nyamplungan, men sit along benches drinking boiled coffee and chatting. Here cigarette smoke hangs heavy in the air and ashtrays dot wooden tables both inside and outside of the cafe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO 2008) 67.4% of men and 4.5% of women smoke, giving Indonesian men one of highest smoking rates of any country in the world. Their proclivity to smoking is not unique as this gender disparity exhibits itself indiscriminately across most countries in the world (WHO 2010).

As we move off the busy street and down a side alley (Jalan Ampel Kesumba Pasar) we are greeted with a sign; Dilarang. Parkir kendaraan. Duduk di pot bunga. Membuang sampah di pot bunga.  This translates to: Banned. Vehicle parking. Sitting in flower pots. Throwing trash in flower pots. These street rules signs can be found throughout the quarter where residents came together to enforce regulations to keep noise out, keep the streets tidy and and ensure a safe environment for their children. Little bins emptied regularly are dotted along the pathways, scooter drivers jump down and push their bikes as they make their way, and residents with cars must park a few blocks down and walk home.

These leafy side streets become short respites as we traversed through the quarter in the Surabayan humidity and heat. Cool breeze channelled through the rows of colonial terrace houses in the absence of heat that otherwise would have come from the bitumen and exhaust permeating the main streets.


Image above: In the main market hall vendor stalls are piled high with garlic, ginger, shallots and various other groceries.

As we passed through the markets we found for sale a variety of muslim clothing and accessories, perfumes, herbal ointments, religious texts, foods and spices. One thing you will not find so easily is alcohol, as drinking is considered by the majority Islamic population to be a socially and religiously deviant behaviour, a lot more so than smoking cigarettes (Smet et al. 1999: Taylor, 2009; The Jakarta Post, 2009). Waterpipes (shisha) are another form of tobacco smoking popular here (Waziak et al. 2013) and can be seen on sale in glass displays facing the street.

Re-entering the main street from the otherside there are rows of motorbikes in designated parking areas where parking wardens collect parking tolls and direct the parking. Becak drivers also hang around here, smoking and passing the time between customers. Taxi and bike drivers in particular have high smoking rates of around 85% (Kirana et al. 2014), and it’s considered polite for customers to give a driver uang rokok (cigarette money) if it’s anticipated that he will be left waiting a while.

It’s not hard to see how tobacco has become deeply embedded in everyday life for a lot of Indonesian men and their families. From acting as a social bond and lubricant, to a way of relieving boredom and stress.



Kirana, R., Dewi, V., Barkinah, T., Isnaniah & Rachmadi, A., 2014, ‘Warning Labels among Informal Workers in Surabaya City – East Java, Indonesia’, Advances in Life Science and Technology, vol. 21, pp. 10-16.

Maziak, W. et al. 2013, Tobacco in the Arab world: Old and New Epidemics Amidst Policy Paralysis, Health Policy Plan, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 784-94.

Smet, B., Maes, L., Clercq, L., Haryanti, K. & Winarno, R., 1999, ‘Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, pp. 186–191.

Taylor, K., 2009,  ‘Smoking still popular despite Ulema edict’, The Jakarta Post, Retrieved Retrieved 7 December 2018,  <>.

The Jakarta Post, 2009, ‘Islamic scholars challenge MUI edicts on smoking and yoga’, The Jakarta Post, Retrieved 7 December 2018, <>.

World Health Organization 2008, WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, The MPOWER package, WHO, Switzerland.

WHO, 2010, 10 Facts on Gender and Tobacco, World Health Organisation, Switzerland.


POST B: Snus and the Swedish Experience


Above image: (General Original 2018)

Sweden has the lowest level of tobacco related mortality for men, and the third lowest overall in the EU (Shapiro 2018, 50) with 5 and 11% respectively of men and women smoking. This makes Sweden unusual; it’s one of the only countries in the world where women smoke more, and this trend has been widely attributed to the rise in popularity of Snus amongst men.

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Above image: (WHO 2012)

After dropping to its lowest consumption levels in 1967, Swedish moist snuff or Snus as it is referred to in Sweden, has been more popular with male nicotine users than traditional cigarettes since 1996. Made of dried ground tobacco, salt, water and  flavourings, it’s an oral product placed between the gum and upper lip.

Multiple sources cite increases in advertising in the 1960’s onwards, but primarily the development of new pasteurised products by the country’s primary Snus manufacturer Swedish Match (IARC 2007, chapter 1.1.2; Shapiro 2018, p. 48). This new process meant the product was air dried and free of chemicals similar products on the market had, and it proved an effective selling point to a market that was increasingly aware of the effects of smoking on the human body (Henningfield 2001).

Gender disparity suggests social and cultural factors were also at play, with male oriented marketing efforts and other societal notions influencing behaviours, a trend that also tends to ring true for cigarette smoking (WHO 2010).

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Above image: (Ramström 2018)

Nowadays, Swedish Match like many of its competitors openly represents it’s products as a harm reduction strategy (2018) targeting smokers who would like to quit. Studies on effective quitting methods tend to suggest that the use of Snus is in fact more effective than other products such as nicotine chewing gum and patches (Lund, McNeill & Scheffels 2010).


Above Image: (Camel Snus Ads 2011)

The above commercials from tobacco company Camel aired in 2011 and promoted Snus as a healthier alternative to cigarettes in the lead up to the government sponsored Great American Smokeout. While it might be less harmful overall, various studies including one facilitated by the International Agency for research on Cancer in 2007 conclude that Snus is still a group 1 carcinogen capable of causing oral, oesophageal and pancreatic cancers (IARC, chapter 5.5).

Whether Snus and other smokeless products are effective harm reduction strategies is a debated topic. Governments are reluctant to endorse these products due to commercial interests a company has in transferring nicotine addiction instead of allowing cessation to occur (Henningfield 2001). Some studies also suggest similar products in the United States may have contributed to escalated smoking rates among youths and young adults in the 1990’s by fostering nicotine addictions that were then translated into cigarette use.

Patterns of nicotine use are influenced by complex factors and the Swedish Phenomenon may be open to interpretation for a while yet. That being said, there can be no one-size-fits-all solution so while there is value in learning from individual case studies, it should not be taken as a recommendation for application in other contexts.



Camel Snus Ads, 2011, Camel, USA, viewed 30 November 2018, <>.

ENVIRON International Corporation 2013, Review of the Scientific Literature on Snus, ENVIRON International Corporation, Arlington, Virginia.

General Original, 2018, Swedish Match, viewed 30 November 2018, <>.

Henningfield, J. 2001, Swedish Match Company, Swedish Snus and Public Health: A Harm Reduction Experiment in Progress?, Pinney Associates, Maryland, USA, viewed 30 November 2018, <>.

Lund, K. McNeill, A. Scheffels, J. 2010, ‘The Use of Snus for Quitting Smoking Compared with Medicinal Products’, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, vol. 12, no. 8, pp. 817–822.

IARC, 2007, Smokeless Tobacco and Some Tobacco-specific N-Nitrosamines, NCBI, Lyon, France, viewed 29 November 2018, <>.

Ramström, L. 2018, Sweden’s pathway to Europe’s lowest level of tobacco-related mortality, Poster, World Conference on Tobacco or Health, South Africa.

Shapiro, H. 2018, No Fire, No Smoke: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction, Knowledge-Action-Change, London.

Swedish Match, 2018, Our Standpoint, Swedish Match AB, Stockholm, viewed 30 November 2018, <>.

WHO, 2010, 10 Facts on Gender and Tobacco, World Health Organisation, Switzerland.

WHO, 2012, Global Report: Mortality Attributable to Tobacco, World Health Organisation, Switzerland.