Post C: The ingrained culture of Tobacco

As I walked through the bustling narrow alleyways of Ambon I couldn’t help but gain a whiff of the smoke filling the air, a smell that reminded me of the crowed outdoor areas of the Sydney pubs. But this wasn’t a pub with areas secluding the smokers from the non, this was the streets, outside a school with the smoke being breathed out by boys only a few years younger than myself. It’s hard to say that I wasn’t too surprised because I knew people my age who smoked, even tried it myself before, and we had come from a background who were educated from birth of the dangers of smoking. So, if I had tried, if people I knew continued to do, what chance did the boys of Ambon have when it came to saying no to smoking.

I spoke to Andreano, a 27-year-old Government worker who I met whilst painting the mural. He and most the Ambonese Running group were non-smokers and were happy to share his insight into the culture of Tobacco that surrounds him. He told me most people start smoking in school, males who feel not only pressure from society and culture but direct pressure from their peers. “Often someone who doesn’t smoke can be bullied and questioned about their sexual orientation simply because they don’t want to try,” Andreano told me, stating “I got bullied for this when I was in High School”. This echoed the masculinity pulls Tobacco companies used to advertise to young Indonesian males, as it is clear that people who don’t smoke are seen as some sort of outcast. Although he himself tried smoking due to the peer pressure, he never liked the taste, but it is easy to see why so many young people begin in the first place. He told me that the smokers he knew were aware of the health consequences but didn’t care and live by telling themselves “all humans will eventually die, just enjoy your life”. It unfortunately becomes obvious that smoking is heavily driven by deeply ingrained views and peer pressure, with a Health Education Research Report documenting comments from two Indonesian boys says “If I don’t Smoke, I’m not a real man” and “If I don’t smoke, I will feel inferior to my friends, because I’m the only one who doesn’t smoke” (Ng, Weinehall, et al 2007).

This made me think and compare to Australia, the drinking culture of beer amongst males and why we even do it. I’d never felt the direct pressure like Andreano talked about, but there was always this subtle sense that a drinking culture was ingrained in our DNA. Canadian Club’s ‘Over Beer? The Big question’ campaign highlights this exact point, a clever ad that asks the questions “Why do you even drink beer?” (Canadian Club Australia 2017, 0:09) to which a range of responses such as “Big Terry drinks it” (Canadian Club Australia 2017, 0:11) and “I only drink it because my dad drank it” (Canadian Club Australia 2017, 0:20) are raised.

Despite Ambon and Australia having vastly different cultures, I found this comparison to ring home for me, a sense that these bad habits are deeply drilled into the way of life. Andreano couldn’t find a concrete answer of why people smoked but simply said it was “part of Ambonese culture”, just as I had come to feel that maybe drinking was a small part of mine.



Canadian Club Australian 2017, Over beer? – The Big Question, video recording, YouTube, viewed 1 February 2019, <>

Ng, N, Weinehall, L, et al. 2007, ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking, Health Education Research, Volume 22, Issue 6, Pages 794–804 viewed 1 February 2019, <> 

Roche, A, Bywood, P, et al. 2015, The Social Context of Alcohol Use in Australia, Australia’s National Research Centre (NCETA), viewed 1 February 2019, <>



Post A: Is the Designer Simply doing their job; The Ethical Dilemma of the Designer in the Tobacco Industry

“Design is one of the most powerful forces in our lives, whether or not we are aware of it, and can also be inspiring, empowering and enlightening” (Rawsthorn 2014). This quote from Alice Rawsthorn, design critic for The International New York Times, epitomises the power designers hold when influencing the minds of consumers, and this influence is no doubt seen within the Tobacco Industry in Indonesia. The large ads, motivating slogans and encapsulating imagery fill the streets contributing to the 76% of Indonesian Males (15+) who smoke (Tobacco Atlas 2015), as the ads have a clear target of “Young Masculinity” (Nichter, Padmawati, et al. 2008). The ruthlessness of these advertisements brings into question, ‘Is this deemed as successful design?’ As absurd as that question is, the designers and marketers behind these campaigns are being extremely successful in making their product desirable to their target audience and isn’t that the goal of designers, advertisers and businesses alike in all industries? And although the ethics of these designers is pulled into question due to their promotion of sin goods, particularly to a younger audience, it becomes important to consider other industries to help gain an understanding of whether it’s simply a designer doing their job well, or does the “empowering” nature that is design negate a greater responsibility needs to be placed on the designers.

Look at the junk food industry within western society, an industry that at first glance seems very different to that of the Indonesian tobacco industry but holds quite a few similarities, particularly within the design and advertising. Both have a strong target of the younger generation, with fast-food outlets like McDonald’s using characters and toys to draw in younger consumers. Both hold dire health risks, with the World Health Organisation labelling “childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century” (WHO 2010) and a reported 63% of Australian adults being considered overweight or Obese in 2015 (ABS 2015). Both saturate the landscape, both physically and online with advertisements. Thaichon and Quach described the fast-food industry as “succeeding in using marketing communications to change attitudes, perceptions and perceived norms associated with unhealthy food” (2015), and this is exactly what was witnessed within the marketing of Tobacco in Indonesia; advertisements designed to change the perception of Tobacco to become more about status and masculinity rather than the health risks.

The Similarities between junk-food Company Coca-Cola and Tobacco Company LA Bold’s advertising that saturate the streets and capture the eye. These include catchy slogans and stand-out colours in prominent street locations. Left Image (Esposito 2016)

I’m sure many would see the work of designers in the fast-food industry as clever, successful, and of course slightly wrong, drawing many people into buying products in such a saturated market. Despite there being some controversies around junk food companies marketing, there is yet to be strict regulations put in place, much like the lack of regulations regarding tobacco advertising in Indonesia. So, this begs the question, is it the designer who is at fault in these situations, for abusing their ability to inspire, empower or enlighten (Rawsthorn 2014), or is the culture, society and government who are in the wrong for not placing stricter laws about it?



Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15, viewed 31 January 2019, <>

Esposito, B 2016, Coke fights anti-sugar campaign by uniting brands in ads for the first time, Financial Review, viewed 31 January 2019, <>

Jolly, R 2011, Marketing obesity? Junk food, advertising and kids, Parliament of Australia, Canberra, viewed 31 January 2019, <>

Nichter, M, Padmawati, S, et al. 2008, Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia, viewed January 17th 2019, <>

Rawsthorn, A 2014, ‘Design Is One of the Most Powerful Forces in Our Lives’, The Atlantic, Viewed January 31 2019, <>

Thaichon, P and Quach, S 2015, How marketers condition us to buy more junk food, The Conversation, viewed January 31 2019, <>

The Tobacco Atlas 2015, Indonesia, viewed January 31 2019, <>

World Health Organization (WHO) 20120, ‘Childhood overweight and obesity’, viewed 31 January 2019, <>

Group Blog Post: Ambon Manise Mural

The brief our group was given was to run a “workshop”. Our initial ideas were extremely broad, we wanted to do an engaging activity that involved children to educate the dangers of tobacco early. Our brainstorming then took a turn and became more focused once we were asked if we wanted to use the prominent “Ambon Manis” wall as space for our workshop. We then began brainstorming ideas for a visually appealing and symbolic mural that simultaneously welcomed audience participation.


Design Process:

Our design process involved many stakeholders and cultures being taken into account. We knew Mural paintings are a great way to get the involvement of the community whilst conveying a strong message (Cherbo et al. 2008), so the opportunity to present an important, anti-smoking message to help influence the Ambonese public weighed heavy on our minds. We focussed on creating different concepts that captured the message and Ambon in different ways.

We began with research of the site and the local Ambon area in General, using the primary information we gathered through our wanders to help influence the first concepts. A focus on keeping Ambon ‘Sweet’ and ‘Full of music’ became the centre of the design concepts, using colours of the ground within the park as a colour palette for our mock-ups. We also looked at designs involving simple colours and shapes so that anyone would be able to assist the mural-painting process regardless of artistic ability. We thought about audience participation, concluding that people helping paint, and the public place their hand-print on the mural in support for a smoke-free Ambon would reach a larger audience of smokers and non-smokers. From this, we began creating and iterating designs, presenting multiple finalised mock-ups for approval focusing on the theme of hands, music, colour whilst tying it to the unique and beautiful cityscape of Ambon.


(Photograph Showing the geometrically patterned ground behind the wall mural Elliott 2019)


Our first mural proposal (figure 1) explored the concept of quitting for someone else, focusing around the hand gesture of crossed fingers, signifying a “promise”, as you are also unable to smoke if your fingers are crossed. We then wanted smokers to stamp their hand in agreement if they wanted to quit smoking, writing a message saying “for” and the name of the person they wish to quit for. However, after presenting our ideas to the tutors, we received feedback stating that people usually only quit for themselves and that the hand gesture might not translate culturally. This made us aware of the difficulties of our task as we must consider the cultural difference and develop a universal visual language to communicate our idea. Furthermore, after some research, we realised that the crossed fingers symbol was seen as rude Vietnamese culture (McManus 2019) and thus decided to refrain from using it as we don’t want to unintentionally offend people.

screen shot 2019-01-26 at 1.31.59 pm

(Figure 1)

The second theme (Figure 2) focused on the aspect of audience participation, ensuring the mural became a representation of the people. Through using the local people’s handprints in a range of designs, we aimed to make the mural feel unique and personal to the people involved. The idea to cross out the fingers carried through from the first proposal, becoming a metaphor of stopping smoking, with participants crossing their own handprint fingers to reflect their dedication to decreasing smoking in Ambon. The wing-shaped imagery was to draw in audience participation in the form of social media posts like Instagram. However, due to the number of hands required and the coordination of so many people we decided to look into other options.

wall examples-01wall examples-02wall examples-03

(Figure 2)

With the large signs in the park already displaying ‘Ambon’ and ‘Malise’ meaning sweet, our third design category was music (figure 3). We wanted to Concentrate on Ambon as the city of music, message of quit smoking so you can “sing” and keep the music going, using music signs and handprints. However, it was felt this design idea strayed away from the main message, the message of anti-smoking.

music2colourful cityambon1

(Figure 3)

We learnt through the meeting with Vital Strategies and our Tutors that Ambonese culture prefers far more direct messages, not as many metaphorical designs as we had been more accustomed to. This key insight led us down the road to creating the final mural, no ambiguous split of dark ambon and light ambon reflecting before and after of smoking, but a clear, straight forward sign reflecting the meaning of Seng Mau Rokok.

So within our final artwork (figure 4), we put the emphasis on the city and the people within it, a city full of music, sweetness and colour. By using large, geometrical shapes it allowed people of all painting ability to come and participate. The Large mountains parallel the skyline of Ambon looking out South West, with reference to our view from the hotel roof. The hands that cover the bottom step are the hands of the Ambonese people, supporting a want for a smoke-free environment. A straight forward no-smoking sign replaces the sun in the landscape, ensuring the true meaning of the mural is visible from everywhere within the park. Seng Mau Rokok follows the jagged landscape to make sure they are always visible wherever someone takes a photo for social media. We believe this mural provides a more inviting message to the community, helps highlight the healthy lifestyles on display at the park and hope to raise awareness of the issue of tobacco within Ambon.


(Figure 4: Final Mural Painted Elliott 2019)

Logistics & Obstacles

We had several things to consider before planning and designing our mural: the message being produced, materials and cost, time and date and trying to work around the unpredictable weather. After our final design was approved we focused on how we could encourage people to participate and found that there were many people that visited the park during the morning, afternoon and even after dark so it was quite easy to spread the word around especially when we began marking up the mural before painting began. Letting the locals know about our mural painting workshop was quite easy as the locals were very welcoming and curious so they often approached us, however for good measure we decided to make a digital poster (Figure 5) to clarify date, time and place to hopefully encourage even more people to participate.

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 10.03.02 am

(Figure 5, the invitational poster)

The first day of painting started off well with several people joining in after we marked each geometric shape within the outlines with a different colour of paint, which made it easier for more people to help out too regardless of their level of skill in painting. Ironically many of the volunteers were smokers but had easily recognised what our mural was based on and decided to continue anyway. Our group encountered some challenges along the way, such as finding colours that matched our palettes we based our design on, marking up the wall to scale, weather impacts and finally not being able to complete our mural according to our anticipated timeline. Continuing on with our mural under the guidance of our studio leaders we completed it and documented our process through a compilation of photographs, videos and time-lapses.

(The Locals helping paint Elliott 2019)

Our hopes the mural:

We hope this mural continues to attract attention and get the people of Ambon thinking about their Tobacco choices. We have seen the impact it has already had, turning heads and sparking conversations about smoking. As the park already holds strong ties to a healthy lifestyle, we hope this mural helps make a stance against smoking and sparks similar, anti-smoking themed murals around Indonesia.


(Inspiring the next generation to not smoke Elliott 2019)


(Group Jambu, left to right: Brad Bawden, Jackson Elliott, Alice Guo, Marie-Celeste Dagher)



Cherbo, J., Stewart, R. & Wyszomirski, M. (eds) 2008, Understanding the Arts and Creative Sector in the United States, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.

McManus, M.R. 2019, 10 Obscene Hand Gestures from Around the World, Culture, viewed 24 Jan 2019, <;.

Mimi Nichter, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Viewed 24 Jan 2019.<;

Elliott, J. 2019, Ambon Photography

BLOG POST D: Targeting the Smokers of Tomorrow

The tobacco industry is ingrained within the daily lives and culture of Indonesia, and you only need to take a short walk around the city of Ambon, Maluku to see perspectives on tobacco are very much different to those in Australia. Advertising aims to positively reinforce the act of smoking, targeting young males through themes of masculinity and status. A 2013 survey found that “99.7% of youths in Indonesia reported seeing tobacco advertisements on television… and 76% in print media … in their lifetime” (Indonesia Bebas Rokok 2013). So how may Indonesia’s loose tobacco control be creating an addicted next generation?

Having researched the Plain Packaging of Australia’s cigarette’s, the reasoning behind the transition and the success it brought, it was a step back in time to see the stores of Ambon stocked up with ‘Marlboro’s’ and ‘LA Bold’ (figure 1), logo’s and branding full spread and the warning’s printed small. When analysing the success of the Plain Packaging, Cancer Council Victoria Researcher, Professor Wakefield stated, “The large graphic warnings on cigarette packs put young people off, with the appeal of cigarette packs and brands decreasing significantly” (2015). Walking around the streets of Ambon, not only did the sheer amount of cigarette vendors become clears (refer to figure 2), but the branded packs revealed: “tobacco producers’ strategies for building associations and identification” (Scheffel and Lund 2013). By having these branded packages around, encouraged Indonesian youth to become associated with them, to help build status and a sense of masculinity.


(Figure 1: Vendors and examples of cigarette packets in Indonesia, a very different sight to those in Australia)

Map 1.jpg

(Figure 2: A map from my walk around the local streets of Ambon, marking the Tobacco Advertising of the Area).

The printed adverts that saturate the Ambon landscape are no different, with a clear target of the young male. This was seen to be particularly strong in areas with a low socio-economy, with ads such as figure 3 appearing every 30 meters along some streets on small kiosks, with “owners provided with cash payments and art supplies for purposes of decoration” (Nichter, Padmawati, et al. 2008).


(Figure 3: Confronting Advertisement that encourages Smoking )

Images of martial artists, rock climbers and other ‘role models’ cover these large banners, tapping into two major themes of tobacco advertising as identified by Nicheter, Padmawati, et al:

  1. “Smoking as a way to enhance one’s masculinity” (2008)
  2. “Youth masculinity” (2008).

It became clear that there was a theme of targeting the young through positive reinforcement. Prabandari and Dewi confirm this, concluding within a study of cigarette advertising on 2115 Indonesian High school students that “cigarette ads were perceived as encouraging youths to smoke” and “smoking status was consistently associated with the perception of cigarette ads targeted at youths” (Prabandari and Dewi 2016).

On my walk, I, unfortunately, discovered that this aggressive advertising seemed to occur far more within the lower socio-economic parts of Ambon, with areas of greater development seeming to have less confronting, and more spread out advertising (see figure 4). However, despite reports of “initiation beginning early with over a quarter of urban and rural 10-year-old boys already smoking” (Reynolds 1999), I didn’t see any male smokers under the age of 20.


(Figure 4: Example of less aggressive advertising)

Overall, a simple walk around Ambon shifted my perspective of the nature of Tobacco culture within Indonesia. I had come from a nation where promotion of such substances is banned, to a place where “cigarette advertising and promotional messages are targeted at youths” (Prabandari and Dewi 2016), and brand covered packs help create status. Tobacco companies are targeting young males, the source of their future revenue, and if nothing changes and no regulations are put on advertising it seems like that future is almost certainly true.



Wakefield, Melanie 2015, Australia’s plain packaging laws successful, studies show, ABC News, Sydney, viewed January 9th 2019, <,-studies-show/6331736>

Prabadnari, Y and Dewi, A 2016, How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students, viewed January 17th 2019, <>

Indonesia Bebas Rokok 2013, Tobacco advertising and sponsorship, viewed January 16th 2019, <>

Scheffel, J and Lund, I 2013, The impact of cigarette branding and plain packaging on perceptions of product appeal and risk among young adults in Norway: A between-subjects experimental survey, viewed January 18th 2019,<>

Nichter, M, Padmawati, S, et al. 2008, Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia, viewed January 17th 2019, <>

Post B- The Design Influence, Australia’s Plain Packaged Cigarettes

As designers, we commonly are interested in gaining the attention of consumers, tempting them to buy products or become interested in services. It is this same notion that makes the introduction of the ‘Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011’ so interesting, as here the designers had the intention to do the opposite of what their job usually entails, to make a product so unappealing that nobody wants to use it.

There is no doubt Tobacco is one of the largest health issues the world faces, with more than 900 million plus people in Australia alone dying a tobacco-related premature death (NSW Health 2012, p.4). This epidemic has caused a mass change in how governments, like Australia’s, attempt to take the tobacco challenge. On the 1st of December 2012, the Plain Packaged Cigarette packs (figure 1) were rolled out with a clear objective to improve public health through a top-down initiative that was designed to be unappealing as possible. Gone were the “logos and distinctive coloured cigarette packaging” (ABC 2018), instead of a “drab olive packets that look more like military or prison issue” (ABC 2018), with the name printed in standardised, small print.


Did it work?

14 individual studies in the British Medical Journal found after the release of the Plain Packaging, there was a 7% increase to 27% of smokers considering attempting to quit smoking (Wakefield 2015), a 78% increase in calls to Quitline within NSW (Department of Health 2016, p.30), and from a design perspective, the new unappealing packaging was changing smokers outlook on cigarettes. No longer did smoking seem as ‘cool’ as it had in the past, with the enlarged, graphic images resulting in people being more likely to conceal their packs from view (Wakefield 2015). The dark olive colour as it was “seen to be the least appealing, had lower quality cigarettes and the highest perceived harm to health” (GfK bluemoon 2011, p.142) and the reduction in brand appeal and brand imagery also caused younger people to reconsider smoking due to the obvious health implications and social perspective on smoking.

Overall, this not only reflects a brilliant strategy that helped combat tobacco usage through helping bring the negative health affects to the user’s eyes, but also showed the influence of design on the mindset and decisions of consumers. The Plain Packaging Act is now something that’s followed across the world, with Hungary, Ireland, France, New Zealand, Norway and Britain implementing similar constraints. In 2018, the World Trade Organisation declared Australia’s Plain Packaging law “contributed to improving public health by reducing use of and exposure to tobacco products” and “rejected claims that alternative measures would be equally effective” (ABC 2018). This ruling will hopefully now lead to a role out of a similar approach to Tobacco packaging around the world, particularly in places like Indonesia who said they’d “examine its options” (ABC 2018) after originally opposing this ruling.

australian-plain-cigarette-packs (1)

Figure 1: showing the change from regular cigarette packs to Plain Packaging (Hammond 2016).


ABC 2018, Australia wins landmark World Trade Organisation ruling on tobacco plain packaging laws, Sydney, viewed January 9th 2019, <>

Cancer Council Victoria 2016, Further initiatives to reduce tobacco-related disparities in Australia, Victoria, viewed January 8th 2019, <>

GfK bluemoon 2011, Market Research to Determine Effective Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products, viewed January 9th 2019, <$File/Market%20Research%20-%20Plain%20Packaging%20of%20Tobacco%20Products.pdf>

Hammond, D 2016, Nothing Plain about Plain Packaging, LASLC News, viewed January 9th 2019, <;

New South Wales Health 2012, NSW Tobacco Strategy 2012-2017, Canberra, viewed January 9th 2019, <;

The Department of Health 2016, Post-Implementation ReviewTobacco Plain Packaging, Canberra, viewed January 9th 2019, <;

The Department of Health 2018, Introduction of tobacco plain packaging in Australia, Canberra, viewed January 8th 2019, <>

The Department of Health 2018, Evaluation of tobacco plain packaging in Australia, Canberra, viewed January 8th 2019, <>

Wakefield, Melanie 2015, Australia’s plain packaging laws successful, studies show, ABC News, Sydney, viewed January 9th 2019, <,-studies-show/6331736>