Group Markisa – Anti-Tobacco Street Murals

The aim of our project was to raise awareness about emphysema and lung health through appropriating existing tobacco advertisement slogans that target Indonesian core values. Some of these values the tobacco companies exploit include social unity, independence, self-image, willpower and strength (Nichter et al. 2009).

Our biggest challenge was realising how ingrained smoking was in Ambonese Culture. Through our primary and secondary research, we discovered some people genuinely believe smoking is good for them and do not believe that smoking is detrimental to their health; others do not draw the connection that emphysema is a result of smoking. Aziz Adi, a cigarette stockist for Phillip Morris, claimed the cigarette packaging warnings were a ‘conspiracy’ (2019, pers. comm., 14 Jan). He supported this with his personal experience of not knowing anyone who has been affected by smoking in Ambon. We also found that Tobacco advertisements with slogans like “Be Bold”, “Go Ahead” and “Never Quit” were designed to be very attractive to young people, exploiting Indonesian values of adventure, bravery and success (Tjandra 2018).

From this research, we chose to target core values to raise awareness about emphysema as it is more effective than presenting facts which do not change beliefs. We took an approach that relates to daily life, that Indonesians in Ambon will find value in; will resonate with and will impact them.

In the process leading up to our idea, we began with brainstorming. Answering the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why, and how), we came up with a few ideas and jumped to solutions that were not targeted at a specific demographic. We narrowed down what we wanted by doing activities together such as body storming and additive ideation canvas (Dunn 2018). We formulated some “how might we…?” questions such as “how might a sensory experience of lung capacity lead to raised awareness for non-smokers at risk?” and passed them around, adding to each other’s ideas spurned by these questions. Out of the ideas we liked the most, we ended up deciding to target the values of the community, specifically the values that tobacco companies target, and subverting their message.

Our response to the design brief is a series of site specific anti-tobacco street murals:

  • Site specific: Our series of site specific street murals incorporates elements in the local environment to create site specific prompts; bringing attention to mundane objects and sights that usually go unnoticed or overlooked – a metaphor for bringing attention to the symptoms of emphysema that are going unnoticed.
  • Appropriating tobacco advertisement slogans: The murals combine text and image, appropriating existing slogans of local tobacco advertisements and using them to contradict pro-tobacco messages – taking something familiar to local Indonesians and re-contextualising it to bring attention to the anti-tobacco message; using an element of surprise to make it stand out in the already saturated media environment.
  • ‘Instragrammable’: We aimed to emulate the essence of Penang Street Art being highly ‘instagrammable’ hot spots for tourists and locals alike – visually appealing art that showcases Ambon’s culture and modernity and encourages people to photograph them and post on social media, hence spreading awareness of lung health through word of mouth and social media sharing. Photographs of the murals shared on Instagram and social media could also attract tourists from all over the world to visit Ambon and hence increase local tourism.
  • Engaging and Interactive: The murals are each a unique photo opportunity, some incorporating physical challenges such as “how long can you hold your breath?”, to encourage people to take photographs with the murals and therefore making our anti-tobacco message memorable and participative.
  • Raises Awareness and Sparks Conversation: The murals around Ambon will serve as prompts for Indonesians to take care of their lung health and raises awareness about the symptoms of emphysema in hopes for prevention and early detection. The hashtags (#SengMauRokok, #Suara_Tanpa_Rokok, #VisitAmbon2020 and #UTSbuild) and @suara_tanpa_rokok Instagram handle that are painted on the murals links the physical art to an online presence to continue the conversation of reducing tobacco use and spreading awareness of lung health and emphysema.

Mural #1: This is What Your Lungs Look Like if You Smoke

The pair of lungs on the bridge is a site responsive installation making use of the shape of the arched windows – drawing a parallel between the shape on the bridge and the shape of lungs. When one views the mural, the water fills the lungs and looks like tar which is what is in the lungs of a smoker. When the water level is lower in the canal, a lot of rubbish can be seen through the windows – a metaphor for lungs filling up with rubbish when one smokes.

Mural #2: Be Bold – Blow Bubbles Not Smoke

Our mural ‘Be Bold – Blow Bubbles Not Smoke’ subverts pre-existing smoking advertisements to create an anti-smoking slogan. The intention behind this is to create something new out of something familiar, making the viewer stop and look twice. Adding ‘Blow Bubbles Not Smoke’ onto L.A. Bold’s advertising slogan ‘Be Bold’ was inspired by our observations and conversations with locals about their smoking habits. Once heavy smokers claimed they were able to quit by substituting cigarettes for an alternative product such as coffee or lollies. We chose to use ‘bubbles’ as the alternative product on our mural as it is appropriate for all ages and sounds catchy in the slogan. In addition, the slogan allowed for a fun and playful interactive visual that people could engage with and post on social media to gain attention globally.

We painted the mural on a wall just off the main road that connects through the whole city. Its close proximity to the main road allows for high visibility and foot traffic. We chose to locate the mural on a side street as it provides a safe space for individuals to take images that they can then post on social media using the handle and hashtags provided. Painting these onto the mural was inspired by popular street art in Australia. For example, James Gulliver Hancock’s provided only a social media handle on his mural at Bondi Beach, attracting over 11,500 Instagram followers. This solution seemed more plausible than using a QR code sticker as they may easily fall off, ware and tare, and fade overtime. In addition, QR codes require a phone application to scan the codes, which not many people own and hence limiting the users experience.

Mural #3: Mock Up: We Are Stronger Together Without Tobacco

“We are stronger together without tobacco” mural plays on Gundang Garam’s PRO mild cigarette advertisement slogan, “We are stronger”. This mural targets values of masculinity, community, and unity through the image of a fist bump – a celebratory action done between friends.

Mural #4 Mock Up: How Long Can You Hold a Musical Note?

The text ‘how long can you hold a note for?’ is a physical challenge which prompts people to think about their lung capacity. This is also a site responsive installation through the use of the horizontal poles on the wall acting like a music staff.

Where to next?

As Ambon as the pilot, our vision is to see anti-tobacco murals all over Indonesia. We hope to raise awareness about the impacts of smoking and inspire lung health by targeting the core values of community and unity.

A high social media presence would help raise awareness about the murals and lung health. This can be achieved through the hashtags.

Site specific murals will attract locals and tourists to particular locations. Murals with physical challenges (eg. how long can you hold your breath?) will be repeated throughout Indonesia. We hope Vital Strategies will continue this project with the help of along with other communities and organisations. Using our proposed designs, others can be inspired to create their own murals playing on current tobacco slogans and tobacco culture.


Dunn, J. 2018, Additive ideation canvas: “yes, and…”, University of Technology Sydney, viewed 26 January 2019, <>.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, pp. 98-107.

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, The Conversation, viewed 17 January 2019, <>.

Post D: Indonesia’s Omnipresent Tobacco Culture

Traces of tobacco exist in every crevice of Ambon: used cigarette butts discarded on the sidewalk; empty cigarette packets floating in the river; Ambonese men smoking along the streets; and the smell of tobacco wafting through the air – all constant reminders of tobacco’s long history in Indonesia, rich with cultural symbolism and associations that existed before the advent of advertising (Reynolds 1999). Perhaps the most jarring, and arguably the most noticeable, aspect of tobacco culture is the plethora of tobacco advertising that densely saturates the Indonesian landscape.

Hand-drawn map of a walk in Ambon observing tobacco advertisements

On a short walk around Ambon – through quiet residential areas, the bustling market, and busy main roads – it is quickly evident that one can barely walk a few metres without seeing cigarette advertisements plastered on cloth banners, wall posters or big billboards (Nichter et al. 2009).

Photographs taken during a walk around Ambon, Indonesia

The frequency in which these tobacco advertisements appear is appalling, and Indonesia’s alarming smoking statistics can in part be attributed to the aggressive and innovative cigarette marketing prevalent in Ambon and other parts of Indonesia (Nichter et al. 2009). In the city of Yogyakarta in Central Java, tobacco billboards are displayed prominently, and most small kiosks and shops are covered with tobacco advertisements – which concurs with the advertising landscape in Ambon as well, as seen from the images above (Nichter et al. 2009). Similarly, in Denpasar, Bali, it was found that 7 out of 10 retailers displayed at least one banner promoting cigarette products (Astuti & Freeman 2018). The combination of persistent advertising and readily available and affordable cigarettes, among other social and cultural factors, has resulted in over 62% of Indonesian males smoking regularly, and boys as young as 10-years-old beginning to smoke (Achadi, Soerojo & Barber 2005).

Although the dense saturation of tobacco advertising in Indonesia is shocking to witness, the most worrying aspect, however, is how these advertisements are seamlessly integrated into the Indonesian landscape and tobacco becomes synonymous with Indonesian culture. As a foreigner visiting Indonesia for the first time and experiencing culture shock from being bombarded with tobacco advertising, the imagery and slogans have started to blend into the environment and I have begun to accept that tobacco culture is a norm in Indonesia. Considering my own firsthand experience, I could only imagine that the local Indonesians have also accepted tobacco as a normality and are not fazed by the saturation of tobacco advertisements – tobacco is so deeply engrained in the fabric of Indonesian culture that the advertisements seemingly belong in front of houses and kiosk shops. Indigenous cigarette advertising exploits and manipulates Indonesian cultural values to promote smoking, and when published en masse, can create a natural association between desirable lifestyle attributes and tobacco – cultivating beliefs and habits in favour of tobacco that has proven, and will continue, to be extremely difficult to alter (Reynolds 1999).


Achadi, A., Soerojo, W. & Barber, S. 2005, ‘The relevance and prospects of advancing tobacco control in Indonesia’, Health Policy, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 333-349.

Astuti, P. & Freeman, B. 2018, Protecting young Indonesian hearts from tobacco, The Conversation, viewed 20 January 2019, <;.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, pp. 98-107.

Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, pp. 85-88.

Post B: The Ingredients for a Successful Design Initiative for Tobacco Control

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and cigarette smoking causes about one in five deaths each year, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths annually (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention n.d.). While cigarette smoking was first linked to lung cancer in 1950, the health hazards of passive smoke exposure was later established in the 1990s, and has been proven to cause death from lung cancer and heart disease (Brownson et al. 1992, p.99). In addition, the children of parents who smoke, and are therefore exposed to secondhand smoke, have a higher frequency of respiratory infections and decreased lung function as the lungs mature (Brownson et al. 1992, p.99).

Although public knowledge and beliefs about the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke has increased substantially over the last century, tobacco control is still a severe global problem. In Chile, more than 55,000 children, aged between 10-14 years old, and 3,927,000 adults, aged 15 and above, continue to use tobacco each day (The Tobacco Atlas n.d.). In response to these alarming statistics, the Chilean Corporation Against Cancer (CONAC) launched a series of two provocative posters aimed to raise awareness of the adverse effects of secondhand smoke and urge citizens, and parents in particular, to quit smoking.

(Caffarena 2008)
(Caffarena 2008)

CONAC is a private non-profit entity dedicated to serve their community through education, prevention, early diagnosis, cancer research and treatment (Corporacion Nacional del Cancer n.d.). The posters designed by Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB), one of the largest global advertising agency networks, depict two distressed and crying boys, each shrouded in a cloud of smoke resembling a plastic bag (Ads of the World 2008). The posters are shockingly realistic as the smoke looks like a real plastic bag choking the boys – a provocative and therefore impactful image effective in capturing attention and evoking shock and empathy. Visually, the contrast of the boys and the white smoke against a black background emphasises their distraught faces and illustrates the consequence of secondhand smoke on children. Although there is no explicit call to action after the caption, “Smoking isn’t just suicide. It’s murder”, the implied message is smoking cessation.

There is evidence that comprehensive tobacco control programmes featuring mass media campaigns, like the posters above, can be effective in changing smoking behaviour in adults (Bala, Strzeszynski & Cahill 2009, p.2). Although the posters faced criticisms of being controversial for using images of distressed children and being too graphic and hyperrealistic, they are memorable, impactful and speak to both logic and emotion – which is essential for a successful design initiative among the masses of mundane and repetitive material warning against tobacco use.


Ads of the World 2008, CONAC, viewed 10 January 2019, <;.

Bala, M., Strzeszynski, L. & Cahill, K. 2009, ‘Mass media interventions for smoking cessation in adults’, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, no. 1, pp. 1-66.

Brownson, R.C., Jackson-Thompson, J., Wilkerson, J.C., Davis, J.R., Owens, N.W. & Fisher, E.B. 1992, ‘Demographic and Socioeconomic Differences in Beliefs about the Health Effects of Smoking’, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 82, no. 1, pp 99-103.

Caffarena, P. 2008, Smoking isn’t just suicide. It’s murder., Ads of the World, viewed 10 January 2019, <;.

Caffarena, P. 2008, Smoking isn’t just suicide. It’s murder., Ads of the World, viewed 10 January 2019, <;.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention n.d., Tobacco-Related Mortality, viewed 11 January 2019, <;.

Corporacion Nacional del Cancer n.d., About us, Chile, viewed 10 January 2019, <;.

The Tobacco Atlas n.d., Chile, viewed 11 January 2019, <;.