Post A: Ethical Designers

Designers have the ability to both contribute positively or negatively to a community as long as society, culture and government permits. Everything tobacco related has had some form of influence from a designer; be it packaging, manufacturing, distribution and everything down to the cigarette itself. Indonesia’s case is no different, designers play a large role in the successes of tobacco, however, this is only possible due to tobaccos deeply ingrained economic, political and cultural roots in the country.

To be an ethical designer in Indonesia’s case is to understand these roots before attempting to design for these clients. The designer must understand the social and cultural differences without prejudice to create a system or product which would effectively suit the client and their needs.

Understanding the tobacco epidemic in Indonesia means to delve deeper than surface level information like habits and social aspects of smoking, but into the more political and economically involved areas of it. For example, to eradicate tobacco and tobacco use in the country would be devastating to the workers of the industry. A Sampoerna employee claimed that working 4 days a week at a cigarette rolling factory would be enough for the worker to put their child through school and university. Meanwhile, the government also aims to raise import duties for tobacco, which “aims at enhancing the welfare of Indonesian tobacco farmers as chances grow that their output will be absorbed domestically at higher prices”. (Indonesia-Investment 2018), Government involvement and revenue associated with the tobacco industry in Indonesia is just one aspect that a designer must consider before attempting to design ethically.


Figure 1 shows of a pack Marlboro cigarettes. With minimal graphic warnings, the bright red packaging and embossed branding is designed to appeal to a variety of audiences. The brand is known for having associations to masculinity, especially in its initial stages where the Marlboro commercials featured a strong and empowering “Marlboro cowboy man”.

Tobacco in Australia however, although still somewhat prominent, has government involvement in the opposing direction and has a more tobacco prevention intent. Since 1990, prevention methods enforced by the government alongside not-for-profit organisiations have seen large a reduction in smoking. One tobacco control method which has had influence from a designer is the graphic warnings applied to a plain packaging on tobacco products implemented in 2006. (The Department of Health 2018) Unlike the colourful and often misleading packaging and advertisements present in Indonesia, a designer would have been an agent for change in developing plain packaging to make cigarettes less appealing to the Australian populous.


Indonesia-Investment 2018, Cigarette & Tobacco Industry Indonesia: Rising Pressures in 2018?, viewed 21 December 2018, <>

The Department of Health 2018, Smoking Prevalence Rates, viewed 21 December 2018, <>

Figure 1

Chen, J. 2018, Marlboro Cigarette Packaging

Post C: The Next Generation of Smokers

According to statistics provided by the World Health Organisation on the Indonesia tobacco epidemic, 11.5% of youth under the age of 18 smoke, with female youth smoking more than adult females at 2.4% to 2.1% respectively. (World Health Organisation 2017) With rampant advertising, unfiltered and unenforced tobacco laws along with little effective education on tobacco use; the prevalence of child smokers and smokers in general undoubtedly has the potential to rise. To gain a further insight into the epidemic I interviewed 20-year-old university student Satya D on the impact smoking has had on both his childhood and young adulthood.

A project funded by The Australian-Indonesia centre outlined the impact that cigarette advertising, availability and pricing has potentially influenced smoking in youth. The team that participated in the project found that there was a density of 32.2 cigarette retailers per square kilometres, all but 12 of 379 schools had at least one cigarette retailer within 250m of each school and 989 out of 1000 retailers had indoor cigarette advertisements. (Australian-Indonesia Centre 2018)


Figure 1: A cigarette advertisement in the Rainbow Village in Malang positioned in a shopfront near kids playing.

“I’m not sure but I think I started in the middle of highschool, so I was maybe 16 years old .”

With the accumulated statistic alone, without even considering the multitude of contributing factors such as the prevalence of smoking around schools or the influence of peers is enough to enable us to see the extent at which young children and teens are exposed to smoking. Satya began smoking at the early age of 16, but sadly this isn’t uncommon, nor is it an extreme with a fifth of children between the age of 13 and 15 reported smoking. (Tobacco Atlas 2014)

“I started smoking because of my friends and maybe my environment, my father was a smoker too. Of course it has impacted my life; I know the negative effects of it buy it helps me relieve some stress of college life.”

Alongside advertising, another heavy contributing factor to young smokers in Indonesia is the wide influence that tobacco companies have over youth related activities. Satya mentioned how his environment may have impacted his life, and explained the role in tobacco companies sponsoring and supporting youth events; like sport scholarships provided by tobacco companies and even music festivals supported by these companies who provide a free pack of cigarettes which is covered in the music festival ticket fee.


World Health Organisation 2017, Who report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2017, Indonesia, viewed 20 December 2018, <;

Australian-Indonesia Centre 2018, Keeping Cigarettes Out of Small Hands, viewed 20 December 2018, <;

Tobacco Atlas 2014, Global Youth Tobacco Survey Indonesia Report 2014, viewed 20 December 2018, <;


Figure 1:

Chen, J. 2018, Cigarette Advertisement, Malang


Post D: Cigarette Bonding

Although the involvement of smoking is prevalent in most everyday activities, the social aspect of smoking in Indonesia truly reflects the loose control laws set by the government, especially when compared alongside those of Australia. From 9 December 2010 smoking was banned in all outdoor eating and drinking places in the Australian Capital Territory apart from designated outdoor smoking areas at licensed premises. (Grace, 2016) On the contrary, no laws have been passed in Indonesia which prohibit smoking in eating spaces and instead, many venues actually encourage and facilitate it.

Warkop Sakam is just one of the many coffee shops was visited and documented along our walking tour, lead by Anitha Silva. A local explained that customers loved the coffee and its price (3,000 RP), but mostly came to socialise, smoke and chat with friends. Upon entry, it could be seen that most of the customers had cigarettes in hand, and those that didn’t, were seated in close proximity to those that did and were most likely still indirectly affected by others’ cigarette smoke. After China, Indonesia is the second largest tobacco consuming Asian country, where two thirds of the men smoke according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey. (Indonesia Investment, 2016) This coffee shop was a small insight into the prevalence of the tobacco problem that this country is currently facing.


Figure 1: An image of Warkop Sakam taken from the street, showing the demographic of the Coffee shop.

Growing up of Asian descent (Taiwanese) and close to relatives and family; eating meals, drinking and being together is understood to be of utmost importance. This aided me in understanding the role that smoking plays in a common social setting as people often smoke while they eat and drink, along with its importance to Indonesian culture.

Nicotine addiction in the workforce is something that can often be seen worldwide but is extremely evident in the market district in Surabaya. Throughout our walking tour it was extremely common to witness workers smoking while participating in what seemed like daily activities; hauling and transporting stock, organizing their shops or just talking to the shopkeepers close by. It is evident that nicotine has an important role in these workers lives, whether it be for the immediate effects of the drug such as stress relief or to combat withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, feeling down or sad, feeling irritable and irregular heartrate. (SmokeFreeVet, 2015)


Figure 2: A shopkeeper was photographed at Pabean Fish markets smoking while organizing fish by species and size.

indonesia map [Recovered].jpg

Figure 3: Map of the walking tour conducted, with some key areas located.




Grace, C. 2016, Tobacco in Australia, viewed 6 December 2018, <>

Indonesia Investment 2016, Tobacco and Cigarette Industry Indonesia, viewed 6 December 2018, <>

SmokeFreeVet 2015, Reasons people smoke, viewed 6 December 2018, <>



Nelson, B. 2018. Warkop Sakam, Surabaya, Indonesia.

Chen, J. 2018. Pasar Pabean Fish Markets, Surabaya, Indonesia.

Chen, J. 2018. Surabaya walking tour 2018, Surabaya, Indonesia.

Post B: Patching a Hole in Our Habits

Nicotine patches are transdermal patches used to deliver nicotine through the user’s skin to reduce cravings and the withdrawal symptoms which can be experienced when the user attempts to quit tobacco usage. The nicotine patch was developed by Jed Rose, Murray Jarvik and Daniel Rose as a top down approach to prevent tobacco usage directly; it was cleared for human use in 1984 and patented soon after in 1986. (Rose, J. E, 1984). An interdisciplinary approach is now used to promote the “over the counter” product in Australia, with advertisements heavily broadcasted over radio, television and often shown in newspapers. The introduction of these patches was just a small step in Australia’s attempt to reduce the prevalence of smoking, which has declined from 22.3% in 2001 to 14.7% in 2015 in people 18 years and older. (The Department of Health 2018).

A study conducted outlines the effectiveness of the nicotine patches in the reduction of tobacco use. A group of users were given both placebo and nicotine patches. The success rate for the nicotine patches almost doubled the placebo patches at 6 weeks, the percentage of quitters 10.8% and 5.9% respectively. The results at 24 weeks were different, however still heavily favoured the nicotine patches, at 8.2% and 2.8%. (Renshaw, 2013).

Although some of these users may have quit smoking, as the patch still delivers nicotine to the user, the users may share common symptoms to that of smoking, such as headaches, dizziness, weakness and sickness.

The design of the nicotine patch is largely successful due to the fact that it fulfills the cravings held by the user, eliminating the need to smoke or chew tobacco from which many health risks may arise such as stroke, heart disease and cancers. However, this alone does not define its success as the primary aim of nicotine patches are to eliminate nicotine dependency. Some brands of nicotine patches offer differing strengths to wean users from nicotine completely. An example of this is Nicotinell, an Australian nicotine patch brand which provides three different nicotine dosages, Nicotine Step 1, 2 and 3 (52.5 mg, 35mg, and 17.5 mg respectively). Typically, heavy smokers begin with Nicotine Step 1, and move their way down after 3-4 weeks as prescribed. Lighter smokers may even begin from Nicotine Step 2. (NPS, 2009).



Figure 1: An advertisement for Nicotinell Patches, displaying the differing dosages of nicotine.

In all, like most other reduction and prevention methods, nicotine patches still rely heavily on the user’s own will to quit. The nicotine patch succeeds in weaning users off tobacco usage. It’s gradual reduction in nicotine strengths is a great way to combat the severe withdrawal effects that are associated with smoking and chewing tobacco.


Rose, J. E., Jarvik, M. E., Rose, K. D. 1984. Transdermal administration of nicotine. Drug and Alcohol Dependence

The Department of Health 2018, Smoking Prevalence Rates, viewed 28 November 2018, <>

Renshaw, A 2013, The Real Story Behind the Nicotine Patch and Smoking Cessation, viewed 28 November 2018, <>

NPS Medicinewise 2009, Nicotinell Patch, NPS, viewed 28 November 2018, <>

Figure 1 found online as an advertisement for Nicotinell on Amazon <>