Tobacco marketing in Indonesia is among some of the most ruthless in the world, known to target culture, religion and identity (Danardono et. al. 2009). While the government continues to allow such manipulation for economic gain, it is left up to the people to stand up against the tobacco industry, and voice their rejection. One of the most powerful vehicles for change is design. The tobacco industry has grown and thrived in Yogyakarta, due to creative marketing techniques and design. If designers refused to provide their skills to these causes, or used these tactics in the reversal, the system of stakeholders could be disrupted.
This movement of design activism is already stirring in Central Java, as individuals expose manipulation techniques and voice their rejection. Canadian photographer, Michelle Siu, was shocked by the impact the tobacco industry is having on children in Indonesia, as she came across children as young as 2 smoking (Sui 2014). Using her creative skills in photography she captured these witnesses and collated them, to spread awareness of its devastating effects. Her photos are incredibly moving, as they capture heartbreaking innocence. They appear almost staged, to someone who has never witnessed the extremity of tobacco culture in Indonesia. Due to their skilfully aesthetic nature, they capture and withhold attention, demonstrating the power of communication through visuals, and the potential of design activism to promote social change (Markussen 2012).
The tobacco industry has a history within Indonesia of exercising its unregulated advertising to the extreme, through the sponsorship of concerts and festivals to target the younger generations. (Henriksen 2012). Within recent years the citizens of Indonesia and the international public health community have called out such moves, not only for the tobacco companies wrong doing but the celebrities and artists negligence. These small acts of shaming artists for allowing such paid sponsorship has caused major artists such as Alicia Keys and Kelly Clarkson to pull out of contracts, losing tobacco companies thousands of dollars (SEATCA 2010). Doing so demonstrates the power of the people to generate change, despite the lack of government initiative to benefit the health of the nation.
Danardono, M., Nichter, M., Ng, N., Padmawati, S., & Prabandari, Y. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, pp. 98-107.
Henriksen, L. 2012, ‘Comprehensive tobacco marketing restrictions: promotion, packaging, price and place’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 147-153.
Markussen, T. 2012, The disruptive aesthetics of design activism: enacting design between and art and politics, DesignIssues, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 38-50.
Despite the wide spread awareness of the health issues related to tobacco, many young Indonesians continue to pick up smoking from an early age. Through interviewing students on campus and conducting research into scholarly studies, it became apparent that one the biggest contributing factor to this pattern is due to social pressure, and a lack of systems in place to prevent people from picking up and maintaining the habit.
Second year business student at UMY, Budi, expressed his clear understanding that smoking was bad for his health, and that he thought it would be much better if there was no smoking. Upon being asked why he did it, he said it was a social thing. He started at 15 because his friends were, and he maintains the habit mostly in the breaks in between classes and after university. This story is one common to many young adolescents across Indonesia. A study conducted among 6276 students in Semarang found that smoking behaviour of best friends was one of the strongest indicator of smoking, across all age groups (De Clercq et. al. 1999). While bullying, stress and not liking school had little to no impact on whether they smoked.
Although UMY is a smoke free campus, a social culture around tobacco is still ever prevalent. I caught Budi and his friend sharing a cigarette behind his building on campus near the car park, an activity they both knew was not allowed, however partook in as they had time to kill. Upon being asked what is would take to make him stop smoking, he stated that he ‘thinks a sign isn’t important today’, just telling people not to smoke wont make change. The fundamental issue lies in deep rooted culture around smoking, and the accessibility of tobacco in Indonesia (Martini & Sulistyowati 2005).
Despite the leniency of Indonesian government regulations on tobacco, all packaging and marketing do carry a health warning (Hull et. al. 2012). This usually features a graphic image, depicting one of the many side-effects. While this movement has been successful in educating people of the impact smoking can cause, it has lead to the desensitisation of such images and warnings. It is one step to educate a nation of the risk they are taking when they partake in an activity, but you cannot expect long-term behavioural change without the implementation of systems to help aid this transition.
De Clercq, L., Haryanti, K., Maes, L., Smet, B. & Winarno, R. 1999, ’Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 186-191.
Hull, T., McDonald, P., Reimondos, A., Suparno, H., Utomo, A., & Utomo, I.D., 2012. ‘Smoking and young adults in Indonesia’, Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, The Australian National University.
Martini, S. & Sulistyowati, M. 2005, ‘The determinants of smoking behaviour among teenagers in East Java province, Indonesia’, Economics of Tobacco Control, vol. 1, no. 32.
UMY campus is a place vibrant with culture, and rich with tradition, backed by strong values and a drive among staff to fulfil these. While a smoke-free campus has been implemented, tobacco culture is still ever prevalent on campus, reflecting the lack of government initiative to combat the wicked problem.
At the heart of the UMY campus is the 8 point star, a recurring motif found throughout the architecture of the campus. It’s significance to Islamic culture derives from its use throughout the Qur’an, as a calligraphic symbol to mark the end of a chapter, signifying a new beginning (Ancient Symbols, 2017). Our future scenario brings this symbolism to life, as we use the stars physical structure on the campus, as a platform to begin a new chapter, focused on sustainability and community; in effect closing the chapter of tobacco.
Our solution is green. We envision a campus with its own ecosystem, in which students, staff, flora and fauna work together to promote sustainable living. We were heavily inspired by the already in place ‘green systems’, which from our research, highly resonated with the student body. Campaigns encouraging students to reduce the amount of plastic they produce have had a positive response, with students expressing their visions for an environment free from pollution.
We envision the transformation of the pre-existing cafeteria building, to be turned into a lively eco hub. The downstairs will remain a cafeteria space, with inviting places to socialise, share meals, collaborate and create. The roof floor which is currently, mostly unused will feature an agricultural ecosystem. Local fruits, vegetables and herbs will be grown here, to be harvested and used in the kitchen below.
The construction and maintenance of this communal space will bring students and staff together, educating and promoting a culture around sustainable living. Bringing students into this centralised area will drive them out of the regions behind buildings generally known for smoking, and provide them with an alternative activity to do between and after classes. By providing vibrant, social spaces, we hope to gradually break the habits of smoking in free time, eventually leaving no room for tobacco culture.
Looking at the current context of successfully integrated green campaign that resonate highly with students. Our timeline suggests that to achieve a smoke free campus, the promise for a techno eco sustainable utopia will be the driving frontier for a social movement around anti smoking, not only educating for health but also environmental impact. For example by 2028 renewable green infrastructure has been planned and begins to take form on the campus, thus with physical instillations and the ever growing green movement students actively support their pro-green eco systems and eradicate smoking in university spaces.
There is a fairly significant colony of stray cats on the UMY campus and we see those cats as a metaphor for the concepts behind the environmentally friendly and sustainable movement we have created. Through our research and interviews we found that cats have incredible significance in Islam, they are mentioned in the Qur’an a number of times noting that they are respected as members of the family and protectors of the houses against deadly insects. We decided rather than eliminate all the stray cats we saw on campus we decided to defy the status quo of seeing stray cats as pests and incorporated them into our vision of what we see the campus to be like in 20 years time By purposefully including cats in our vision it challenges the stereotypical concept of fauna absent ecosystem.
In terms of a timeline considering the cats on campus, currently we can see the cats that they do not seek out humans for anything more than food scraps and there is no relationship between humans and the cats with nothing cat specific on campus. We noticed that the cats were eating fish from the water features on campus to feed themselves and their kittens and were inspired by the fact they were living a self sufficient life to launch our idea of incorporating them in a larger more specific role in our idea of the ecosystem of UMY in 2040.
In the years between now and 2040 taking steps toward the end goal could include more awareness of the cats on campus and educating students on respecting them and not seeing them as pests through signage or lectures. In 2040 we envision that the cats on campus are no longer considered stray but part of the ecosystem with cat specific systems and structures in place. We’ve designed bamboo structures throughout including an irrigation system for them to drink from not too dissimilar to the one that was seen on campus. Cat faeces are an excellent fertiliser due to the high levels of phosphorus and could be used when tending to the gardens on campus. We envisage that there are societies and groups dedicated to the care and awareness of the cats and that the cats could be used as “therapy animals” for people on campus. That cats are seen as an integral part of of the on campus community and a source of connection and give purpose to those who want it.
The bamboo structure, built upon the star was a school community project, carried out over the course of 3 years. Students were provided the opportunity to come up with an innovative design that responded to the local tropical climate. The winning design features 3 channels in the roof of the structure, that use bamboo panels to guide and funnel the water into irrigation and storage systems. Doing so ensures water from the monsoon season is maximised across the dry season, while also creating partial protection to the more fragile plants growing below during heavy rainfall. Student and staff members worked together to build the structure, in a program to educate students on sustainable methods of construction, and create a deeper connection to the campus.
Top floor features:
composting and vegetation
Sustainable nature of whole project, being an ecosystem
The tobacco industry in Indonesia is deeply intertwined into the financial structures of the government, making it challenging to encourage people to quit smoking. The taxes placed on cigarettes attributed to nearly 10% of the total government revenue in 2002 (Danardono, Nichter, Ng, Padmawati, & Prabandari 2009). The industry employs over 11 millions citizens, being the second largest employer after the government. It also plays a role in sponsoring a majority of the nations social, cultural and sporting events, and even offers scholarships to students to attend colleges. In Yogyakarta the tobacco companies provide the government with ‘social contributions’, that finance the construction of public features such as, city gardens, bus shelters and street lighting (Danardono et al. 2009). Targeting the financial structures of this breadth and depth, makes it intrinsically rooted into the lives of Indonesian people.
‘‘I sympathise with the idea of getting people to stop smoking, but for now the cost is too high’’
– Indonesian Minister of finance (Danardono, Nichter, Ng, Padmawati, & Prabandari 2009, p. 98)
In Yogyakarta, tobacco culture is heavily prevalent. Shop fronts are littered with adverts, billboards plastered with campaigns, and citizens smoke freely, with few restrictions placed on smoke-free areas (McCall 2014). Tobacco company, Kraton Dalem, uses the deeply historic emblem of the Saltan palace for their packaging, and a yearly competition is run, offering the grand prize of a pilgrimage to Mecca (Danardono et al. 2009). Doing so, the tobacco industry embeds itself in the history, culture and religion of the city, making it a source of national pride, encouraging spending. Despite this saturation, anti-tobacco movements are arising across the city. In 2017, a mural was put up as a community project, encouraging people to reject the tobacco industry (MTCC 2017). These murals were painted in bright luminescent paints that glow under ultraviolet lights, sparking conversation and worldwide recognition.
You cannot use the economic impact of Australia’s tobacco policy changes as a prediction for how it would effect Indonesia, as Australia is of a privileged position, being a developed nation. However Australia’s anti-smoking journey can be used as an example of the possibility for change. Fear that media revenue in Australia would be at a loss when bans were placed on cigarette advertising in 1976, were later subsided, as these spaces were quickly filled with other adverts (The Cancer Council 2019). Similarly for the impact on income, for hospitality venues and small business owners. While the tobacco industry does provide financial gain, it should be considered the impact smoking has on the health system. It is predicted that non-communicable diseases will cost Indonesia up to US$4.5 trillion from 2012-2030 (Bernaert, Bloom, Candeias, Cristin, Chen, McGovern & Prettner 2015). There is no denying changes in government policies regarding the tobacco industry would have a negative financial impact, however the further embedded it becomes in their culture, the harder it will become to remove.
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Bernaert, A., Bloom, D.E., Candeias, V., Cristin, S., Chen, S., McGovern M. & Prettner, K. 2015, Economic of non-communicable diseases in Indonesia, World Economic Forum, Harvard T.H. Chan.
Danardono, M., Nichter, M., Ng, N., Padmawati, S., & Prabandari, Y. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, pp. 98-107.
McCall, C. 2014, ‘Tobacco advertising still rife in southeast Asia’, World Report, vol. 384, no. 9951, pp 13365-1336.
During February 2019, 6 major newspapers featured front page coverage of teasers for a story uncovering ‘Australia’s worst serial killer’. This 4 week interdisciplinary campaign by the Heart Foundation, was rolled out to online news and broadcasting platforms, including the True Crime Australia website. This was then followed by the release of a video of investigator, Clive Small, telling his story of being stalked himself, calling action against this prolific killer that was still on the loose. The advertisement concluded with the text: ‘Heart disease is Australia’s number one killer, taking 51 lives a day’.
This campaign was a major success, increasing the heart foundation web site traffic by 270%, and encouraging 800,000 people to check the online heart age calculator. The campaigns reveal, was the topic of almost 2000 media stories, print, online, radio and tv, spreading further awareness. This public unrest triggered the federal government to introduce a Medicare funded health check, therefore fulfilling the Heart Foundations goal. This bottom-up approach to policy change is beneficial in providing people with a sense of power, allowing for greater attitudes towards behaviour change (Wallack 1994).
The campaigns success can be attributed to its creative approach in the way it framed its message. As a society we have become desensitised to the overwhelming release of health statistics, especially when presented to us in ad form (Elliott & Speck 2013). The campaign instead played on Australians fascination with true crime, personifying heart disease as a serial killer. This was especially contextually relevant, as it rolled out during the same time news coverage was reporting Ivan Millat’s decline in health.
In May the campaign launched another advertisement, that featured parents telling their child, that they were dying from heart disease because they did not love them. This ad received serious backlash and was pulled within a week. While both advertisements played on shock to instigate behaviour change, this was insensitive to those who had lost people to heart disease. What separates the ads, is the role of truth in the message. Reframing heart disease as a serial killer, recontextualises the severity of its threat, while framing complacency with heart disease, as not loving your child, is simply untrue.
When designing my intervention I will remember the integral role storytelling plays in the communication of a message (Gray 2013), remembering the power in using shock to reveal truths, while being sensitive personal experiences.
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Gray, J. 2013, ‘The power of storytelling: using narrative in the healthcare context’, Journal of Communication in Healthcare, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 258-273.
Elliott, M. & Speck, P. 2013, ‘Predictors of advertising avoidance in print and broadcast media’, Journal of Advertising, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 61-76.
Wallack, L. 1994, ‘Media Advocacy: A strategy for empowering people and communities’, Journal of Public Health Policy, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 420-436.