Post C: The Pressures of Smoking

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.

An area commonly used by smokers at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta.

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. 

References ———————————————————————————————–

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, < >.

Parrott, A. C. (2004). Heightened Stress and Depression Follow Cigarette Smoking. Psychological Reports, vol. 94, no.1, pp. 33–34, viewed 18 December 2019, <;.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 1, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

Smoke Free, Know your triggers, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, United States, viewed 18 December 2019, <;.

Post A: Design – Both the Villain and the Saviour

Although designers may often like to view themselves as unattached to the products and purposes they serve, they must also recognize the inherent responsibility and power they wield when engaging in wide-reaching design campaigns. Particularly when interrogating the power of the tobacco industry within Indonesia, the unfettered influence of advertising and designers is altogether too apparent. Lacking proper legislation, the Indonesian government allows a myriad of heavily designed and planned cigarette advertising to adorn its cities, with the all-too-familiar words, “pro never quit,” feeling like Yogyajakarta’s city slogan (Reynolds 1999). Design activism presents a promising avenue for accelerating the decline of smoking culture, as it has the ability to “generate different ways of looking at the world” (Crosby 2019). However, in Yogyakarta, this space has been captured by the Tobacco industry, and it is up to designers and culture makers to begin to counteract its negative effects. 

(Hammer 2019) Heavily designed and saturated imagery advertising cigarettes.

Indonesia is one of the few countries yet to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is a major reason that its prominent advertising and influence remains unchecked. In the words of Sampoerna, “Indonesian companies have almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format” (Nichter Met al 2009). However, it is not just through their billboards that they reveal the malevolent influence of design. They also piggy-back on the success of creatives and culture-makers via sponsored events such as the Gudang Garang Java Rockin’Land 2010, which is described as the biggest rock festival in Southeast Asia (SEATCA 2010). This continually aligns tobacco with design and creative culture, a link that must be eroded in order to change the culture.

Design’s situation at the core of the issue.

As the tobacco cessation initiative Project QTI recognizes, smoking is often perceived as “cultural” with positive social connotations. This group seeks to use design to create a new culture within Indonesia that distances itself from existing tobacco advertising. To accomplish this, they are seeking to promote new cultural themes such as willpower as a virtue of masculinity, and family responsibility as a “value that eclipses personal pleasure” (Nichter Met al 2009). By drawing on themes of self-control deeply integral to Javanese culture and religious holidays (fasting during Ramadan) as a form of masculinity, as well as raising family values and health to be promoted over momentary pleasure, QTI is tackling the tobacco crisis by rebranding the culture that supports it. 

This presents an interesting opportunity for design activists to collaborate at different levels throughout Yogyakarta and Java. These designers may also be able to tap into the excessive visibility of existing advertisements in order to relocate the social culture surrounding smoking, by creating profound and provocative messages via culture jamming that subvert the tobacco industry’s typical messaging (Milstein, Tema. & Pulos, A. 2015). 

References ———————————————————————————————–

Crosby, A. 2019, ‘Design Activism in an Indonesian Village’, MIT Design Issues, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 50-63, viewed 19 December 2019, <>.

Hammer, R. 2019, Gudang Garam advertisements, viewed 19 December 2019 <;.

Milstein, Tema. & Pulos, A. 2015, ‘Culture jam pedagogy and practice: relocating culture by staying on one’s toes’, Communication, Culture and Critique, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 395-413.

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, < >.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 1, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, International artists performing at Indonesian tobacco-sponsored rock festival despite protests, Bangkok, viewed 19 December 2019, <>.

Post D: Legislation lags as tobacco advertising runs rampant.

The Indonesian tobacco industry holds a staggering economic and political influence, encouraging lax legislative policies surrounding advertising and facilitating a perpetual cycle of addiction and enticement. The tobacco sector is the largest source of government revenue after oil, timber and gas, as well as being Indonesia’s second-largest employer (11 million workers after the government) (Nichter M et al 2009). Due to this undeniable influence, anti-tobacco legislation lags behind the rest of the world, as evidenced by the Indonesian government’s failure to ratify the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). 

The prevalence of cigarette advertising has undeniably shaped the culture surrounding Indonesia’s tobacco crisis, as Sampoerna (the largest Indonesian tobacco company) reflected, “Indonesian companies have almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format” (Nichter Met al 2009). This has lead to cities such as Yogyakarta becoming inundated with an unrelenting onslaught of tobacco-related imagery, notably in the form of cloth banners and billboards. The tobacco industry secures control of the placement of billboards throughout the city by ingratiating itself with the local government – funding infrastructure such as city gardens and lights. This acts as what Dr Ahsan describes as “camouflage,” “donations are exchanged for people’s health and livelihood” (Wibawa 2019). The prevalence of cigarette advertising is starkly contrasted at an international level, with countries such as Australia implementing plain packaging laws (since 2012) as well as a blanket ban on radio and television advertising (The Australian Department of Health 2019).

Figure 1: High school student perceptions of tobacco advertising in Yogyakarta.
Data from Dewi, A. & Pradabandari, Y.S. 2016

The Indonesian tobacco industry doesn’t limit itself solely to traditional, corporate methods of advertising. It has insidiously worked its way into cultural events and traditions in local communities. Tobacco companies provide funds to neighbourhoods (kampungs) in Yogyakarta so that they can decorate gateways and entrances in their community with brand imagery, with the possibility of prizes for creativity. They also sponsor celebrations such as the 2008 anniversary of Yogyakarta, in which Djarum ramped up advertising throughout the city. Through these methods, as well as more conventional sponsorship of sporting events such as Formula 1 and soccer/basketball competitions, cigarette advertising works heavily to create a culture which aligns smoking with masculinity and luxury, “targeting younger age groups who are still so focused on their identity formation” (Reynolds 1999). By appealing to younger boys as a future source of profits, the tobacco industry has created a situation wherein “70% of all men and one in five children aged between 13 and 15 smoke” (Wibawa 2019). 

Image result for Gudang Garam a mans cigarette ad
Figure 2: A 1995 Gudang Garam advertisement referring to the cigarette as “Kreteknya lelaki” (“The man’s cigarette”)

As smoking continues to cause approximately 19% of adult male deaths each year with virtually no effectual legislative efforts, one cannot argue with the Indonesian Heal Minister Nafsiah Mboi’s statement, “We have failed in protecting our people” (The Telegraph 2012).



Dewi, A. & Pradabandari, Y.S. 2016, ‘How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students’, Global Health Action, vol. 9, no. 1, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

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, < >.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 1, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

The Australian Department of Health, 2019, Tobacco plain packaging, Canberra, viewed 25 November 2019, <>.

The Telegraph, 2012, Two-Thirds of Indonesian men smoke, London, viewed 25 November 2019, <>.

Tobacco Free Kids, 2017, The toll of tobacco in Indonesia, viewed 25 November 2019, <>.

Wibaya, T. 2019, Tackling Indonesia’s smoking addiction a ‘double-edged sword’, ABC, Sydney, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

POST B: Harnessing the viral nature of social media to promote HIV testing.

South Africa has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. Despite the work done by the government and numerous NGO’s to educate people on the dangers of HIV and its prevention methods, it remains prevalent with 7.7 million people living with HIV in South Africa alone (UNAIDS 2019). Until recently, one of the key issues in addressing this problem has been the lack of engagement offered by traditional public announcements and warnings, particularly towards young people.

‘MTV #FCKHIV Campaign’ (Oglivy South Africa, 2017)

In order to resonate with the youth, social media campaigns such as the #FCKHIV movement created by MTV and Oglivy (2017) have been necessitated to modernise and stress the issue. This campaign promoted HIV testing in typical MTV fashion, with bright, bold colours and a youthful spin on the process. Recognising the dreariness of dry statistics, the campaign promoted the check as an act of rebellion and protest against the disease, asking people to “give HIV the middle finger” by using their middle finger for the check and encouraging them to post pictures with the hashtag #FCKHIV. Due to the viral nature of social media, this campaign had an easily measurable effect in terms of awareness; it became the top trending topic within 9 minutes and reached 6.8 million impressions across social media (Oglivy South Africa 2017).

The #FCKHIV social media campaign hasn’t been the only factor improving the situation in South Africa. The introduction of a nationwide HIV testing and counselling campaign in 2010 (HTC) and the HTC revitalisation strategy in 2013 have undeniably been the most crucial catalysts for more than 10 million people in South Africa to test for HIV each year (Avert 2019)(Johnson et al 2019). Yet the MTV campaign and a host of other modern formats for raising awareness such as television shows (MTV Shuga)(Lopez & Orozco 2016), are also vital in tackling issues surrounding the stigmas and prejudices surrounding HIV and HIV testing (Bos et al 2008, p. 52), making it more approachable. The combination of both accessibility and specific-target campaigns has lead to significant progress in recent years, and in 2017 South Africa reached the first of UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets (UNAIDS 2019), allowing 90% of people living with HIV to be aware of their status as opposed to 66.2% in 2014 (Avert 2019).

This method of raising awareness by targeting a younger demographic through social media and interactive engagement, may be an apt and interesting avenue to explore in relation to Indonesia’s tobacco crisis, particularly due to its prevalence among children and young people (Wibawa 2019). It could act as a more friendly alternative to the scare-tactics used in most public messages surrounding the issue.


Avert, 2019, HIV and Aids in South Africa, Brighton, viewed 17 November 2019, <;.

Bos, A.E.R., Meiberg, A.E., Onya, H.E. & Schaalma, H.P. 2008, ‘Fear of stigmatization as barrier to voluntary HIV counselling and testing in South Africa’, East African Journal of Public Health, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 49-54, viewed 18 November 2019, < >.

Govathson, C., Johnson, L.F., Meyer-Rath, G. & van Rensburg, C. 2019, ‘Optimal HIV testing strategies for South Africa: a model-based evaluation of population-level impact and cost-effectiveness’, Science Reports, no. 12621, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

Lopez, K. & Orozco, V. 2016, ‘The newest weapon against HIV/AIDS in Africa? MTV’, Voices: Perspectives on development, weblog, World Bank Blogs, June 30, viewed 19 November 2019 <>.

MTV & Oglivy, 2019, #FCKHIV, video, Vimeo, viewed 17 November 2019,

Oglivy, 2019, #FCKHIV Summary, Creative Pool, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

UNAIDS, 2019, UNAIDS South Africa Data, Geneva, viewed 17 November 2019, <;

UNAIDS, 2019, 90-90-90: Treatment for all, Geneva, viewed 17 November 2019, <>

Wibaya, T. 2019, Tackling Indonesia’s smoking addiction a ‘double-edged sword’, ABC, Sydney, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.