POST A: Designing Out Tobacco

Indonesias wicked problem with tobacco is clear as soon as you step outside of the airport. Buildings are riddled with posters, stickers and signs of different tobacco companies trying their best to have their brand be purchased. The designers who have poured their time into designing these advertisements have cultivated specific niche where if you quickly glance at their posters without really taking in what is being advertised you would assume it has something to do with sport or a gym or a protein powder but once you read the text you’ll see brands such as “PRO NEVER QUIT” or “PHILLIP MORRIS.” Design is everything when it comes to advertisement and these designers have enabled the tobacco industry in Indonesia so significantly that it seems almost impossible to undo the damage that has already been made, but through education and design activism over time this problem that is the tobacco industry in Indonesia could become a distant memory. 

Image I took while travelling from Yogyakarta city to Borobudur

The tobacco industry holds an inconceivable amount of power not only in advertisement, consumerism and actual smoking, but within the government too. Due to the significant political and economic influence the tobacco industry has, the industry is the Indonesian governments largest source of tax revenue (Tjandra, Ensor, Thomson, 2014). While the tobacco industry holds an incredible amount of power within the government and over the nation designers in all aspects of the word, also have the power to change the tobacco industry through consumer opinions etc. 

Image I took inside the Gereja Ayam “prayer house” in Magelang

Through design activism and creative culture designers can fight the wicked problem of tobacco by making an ethical choice to choose a path of design that tackled considered issues like the environment, health and politics. In an age where social media is one of the largest tools to share information and connect with others, that is an integral part of where designers should be implementing their action. Through campaigning and education sharing that through social media/pop culture to reach a larger audience and make an impact on younger generations who are also important pieces to the puzzle of designing out tobacco. 

Reference List

Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia, Indonesia Investments, 


Tjandra C, Ensor J, Thomson E, 2014,’Tobacco children: An ethical evaluation of tobacco marketing in Indonesia’, Edinburgh Napier University. 

Tjandra, N. 2018, Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation get hooked, Jakarta, <>.

POST D: Indonesian Tobacco Culture and Gender

Indonesias tobacco industry is one of the largest industries in the country with 53.7 million active adult smokers and 2.6 active youth smokers (Indonesia Investment 2016). While that statistic is obscenely high its important to note that two thirds of Indonesian men are smokers/consume tobacco related products. It is estimated while 65% of Indonesian men are smokers around only 3% of women are smokers. The reason for the huge discrepancy in the percentage of male smokers compared to female smokers is that it is not socially acceptable for women to be seen smoking.

Advertising in the tobacco industry within Indonesia also plays a large part in the influence of the gender discrepancy between male and female smokers. In Yogyakarta the streets are inundated with tobacco advertising, and the majority of the billboards depict male centric advertisement (Nichter, M. 2009). In images 1 and 2 the tobacco brand Surya Pro Mild billboards in Yogyakarta clearly show the male targeted theme of the advert. It is stereotypically “masculine” and brutish and implies that “men” don’t quit smoking their brand of tobacco and if you do then you’re not man enough. 

Image 1 – Surya Pro Mild tobacco advertisement billboard in Yogyakarta
Image 2 – Surya Pro Mild tobacco advertisement billboard in Yogyakarta

Smoking among Indonesian men is widely socially and culturally acceptable whereas Indonesian women smoking is not. While this stereotypical societal value that women are less accepted as smokers is inherently sexist, it is beneficial for the health of Indonesian women overall by inflicting a strong societal deterrent from women taking up the habit. 

In conclusion, there is clear underlying cultural and societal sexism within tobacco advertisement in Indonesia and it is a paradoxical situation where there inherent and ingrained male gender specific targeted ads and overall societal culture, this has meant that women are a lot less likely to smoke tobacco. While this is a somewhat positive outcome it does not negate the fact that although the percentage of women who smoke in Indonesia is comparatively lower than the percentage of Indonesian men who smoke millions of people are still dying at an alarming rate and prematurely due to tobacco consumption. It is also important to understand that while there is a much smaller percentage of women who use tobacco products it is still an important health issue that needs to be resolved regardless of gender. 


  1. Indonesia Investments 2016, ‘Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia’, Indonesia Investments, viewed 23 November 2019, <
  2. Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, pp. 327-332
  3. Nichter, M., Padmawati S., Danardono M. 2009,Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol.18,  pp98-107.


  1. Gudang Garam PRO Mild – Conventional Bilboard, 26/11/2019, <
  2. Duncan Graham, INDONESIA NOW with Duncan Graham, 26/11/2019, <>


“That ad had a very clear brief to scare the hell out of Australia and put AIDS on the list. Prior to that no one knew about it. That ad is once seen, forever remembered.”

– Noel Magnus, Head of Accounting Management, M&C Saatchi.

By the end of 1984 there had been 18 deaths and 47 diagnosed cases by 1985 4500 men in Sydney and Melbourne had tested positive for HIV which was the precursor to AIDS between 1983 to 1986 the AIDS issue became incredibly complex and there was an epidemic primarily within the gay (male) community and injecting drug users. 

William Bowtell, a senior advisor to the health minister at that time believed that the Federal government was the best place to present a campaign to make a change. There was a large group of conservative opinions within the government deeming the sufferers of this illness (gay men, drug users/addicts, sex workers etc) to be “irredeemably awful and evil and their destructive behaviour wouldn’t change and therefore all the power of the state should be used [against them].” Although this offensive viewpoint was representative of a large amount of the Federal government Botwell persevered collaborating with researchers and scientists to formulate a strong and clear prevention message to the Australian public. 

It was through this collaboration and research the Grim Reaper campaign was born. They wanted to have a controversially emotive and powerful public service announcement on television that shocked the Australian Public into awareness and action. The video depicts a terrifyingly haunting grim reaper figure at a dark hazy/smokey bowling alley with ‘average everyday Australians’ representing the bowling pins. The Grim Reaper figure bowled striking down the people depicted while a foreboding voice over says “At first, only gays and IV drug users were being killed by AIDS, but now we know every one of us could be devastated by it.”

The Grim Reaper Commercial Campaign Televised in 1987

The initial response to the Grim Reaper campaign was successful, there was instantaneous reaction and conversation surrounding the controversial video. There were varied opinions in reaction to the campaign video from all spectrums some deemed it scaremongering by ‘gay groups’ to take control of a national agenda, some deemed it offensive and sensationalising the illness and its sufferers further isolating the communities that were already marginalised and persecuted. But the evidence showed that the number of diagnoses fell after 1987 and continued to fall until 2001. On an international level Australia then had one of the lowest levels of infection in the world. 

‘Australia’s Response to HIV/AIDS 1982-2005

There has been nothing throughout Australian television history that has had as strong of an impact or reaction in terms of design initiative or creative social engagement campaign for public health through the medium of televised adverts.


  1. Padula, M. 2008, ‘The AIDS Grim Reaper Campaign (A),’ The Australian and New Zealand School of Government 
  2. Bowtell, W., ‘Australia’s Response to HIV/AIDS, 1982-2005’, Lowy Institute for International Policy Sydney, Australia, May 2005, p. 15.
  3. Blewett, N., op. cit., 2003/07, p. 8.
  4. Morlet AGuinan JJDiefenthaler IGold J. 1988, ‘The impact of the “grim reaper” national AIDS educational campaign on the Albion Street (AIDS) Centre and the AIDS Hotline’, WILEY, 148: 282‐286


1. Bowtell, W., ‘Australia’s Response to HIV/AIDS 1982-2005’, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, Australia, May 2005, p. 7.


1. Double Denim Days, 2016, video recording, Youtube, viewed 20/11/2019 <>