POST A: Designers and Creative Culture Makers Role in Society

Designers play a huge role in the success of tobacco industry in Indonesia. Everything from branding, packaging, advertisement and others are created by designers to promote specific brand of cigarette. Designers and creative culture makers can take part positively to be an agent of change to break the culture of smoking with their talents through design activism. Design activism is an act of using our talents to create a good positive impacts that can inspire and educate others. 

Stakeholders map

The tobacco industry is one of the leading industry in world, Indonesia is the second largest cigarette market in the world (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 2017). Designers and creative makers takes part in the success of the tobacco industry in Indonesia in the form of advertisement that designers make to advertise smoking cigarette that are advertise visibly saturates in Indonesia (Reynolds 1999), murals about smoking as well as entrepreneurs that accept cigarettes company as their sponsorship for their events play a huge role in the enablement of the tobacco industry. One of the many example is in 2008 PM International/Sampoerna one of the biggest cigarette brand in Indonesia, sponsored US singer Alicia Keys’ concert in Jakarta, Indonesia (Stanton et al. 2010). Designers and creative culture makers can be an ethical influence and an agent for change through design activism to tackle the culture of smoking in Indonesia by creating positive advertisement and rejecting offer to work in the tobacco related company. Creative culture can also participate in this change by not inviting cigarette company to sponsor their events or participate in the events that are sponsored by cigarette company. 

There are still some barriers that designers and creative culture makers face when influencing change such as economic factor, since getting sponsorship for an event can be quite tough but because the tobacco/cigarette industry is one of the most biggest industry in Indonesia, it is easier to approach them to ask for sponsorship than other companies. Tobacco companies has been established since long time ago in Indonesia that makes them have a strong relationship with the government, moreover they are one of the largest tax revenue in Indonesia, influencing changes around tobacco industry might be harder because of the relationships they have with the officials.

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PT Gudang Garam Tbk one of the biggest cigarette production company in Indonesia sponsored an English rock band on 2012 to perform at Yogyakarta (wowkeren 2012). 


Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 2017, The Toll of Tobacco in Indonesia, viewed 18 December 2019, <;.

Reynolds, C. 1999, Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”, viewed 18 December 2019, <;.

Stanton, C. R., Chu, A., Collin, J., Glants, S. A. 2011, Promoting tobacco through the international language of dance music: British American Tobacco and the Ministry of Sound, viewed 18 December 2019, <;.

Wowkeren 2012, Grup Band Beraliran British Rock Akan Memulai Konser 18 Februari Di Jakarta, Disusul Tiga Kota Lainnya Yakni Surabaya, Yogyakarta Dan Bali, viewed 18 December 2019, <;.

Post C: Fitri – Gender and Smoking

On 1-14thDecember of 2019, I visited Yogyakarta to participate in a global studio focusing on the wicked problem of tobacco. During my visit, I got a chance to interview one of the clothing street vendors in Malioboro street, Fitri. In Indonesia, it is estimated that around 65 percent of Indonesian men are smokers. While for Indonesian women, the figure is much lower – around 3 percent only (Indonesia Investment 2016). I asked her several questions about the current situation of smoking in Yogyakarta, precisely in Malioboro street. She claimed that most of the smokers situated there, are young men and usually they smoked as a group “they smoke just to socialize” she said. When I asked her about why we don’t really see young girls or women smoke in public she answered that in Indonesia it is still taboo for women to smoke moreover if they are wearing hijab. Tobacco kills 255 720 people each year around the world (WHO 2018) and Indonesia is the 6thranked country that smokes the most cigarettes around the world. Everywhere I walk along the Malioboro street I could see someone smoke while they are sitting, walking or even standing while chatting with their friends. Fitri also told me that her father and older brother smokes since young age because of the pressure from their community. After she said that it makes me think that young students smoke not because they want to in the first place but because of the pressure from their surroundings since early age that makes them hard to quit. Fitri claimed that she wishes that her father and brother will quit smoking as soon as possible since she is worried about their health condition. She claimed that her dad has a hard time breathing while her brother keeps on coughing occasionally. 

A person standing in front of a store

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One of the cigarettes seller selling ranges of cigarette brands in Malioboro street (Rokok Indonesia 2014).

From a research conducted by the University of Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, most smokers are worried about the dangers of smoking that can affect their health if the cigarette packaging shows the picture of diseases that they can get if they continue to smoke printed on the packaging cover(University of Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta 2012). In my opinion, Indonesia needs to enforce the plain packaging law as soon as possible since when I go to the supermarket I can still see cigarette boxes with no big image of health warning printed on the cover.


Indonesia Investments 2016, Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia, viewed 16 December 2019, <;.

Rokok Indonesia 2014, INDUSTRI ROKOK, Flickr, viewed 16 December 2019, <>.


World Health Organization 2018, Factsheet 2018 Indonesia, viewed 16 December 2019, <;.

Post D: The norms and values relating to smoking in Javanese society

After China, Indonesia is the second-largest cigarette market in Asia. It is estimated that around 65 percent of Indonesian men are smokers. For Indonesian women, the figure is much lower – around 3 percent only (Indonesia Investment 2016). Most of the smokers start smoking from early age and got addicted eventually. An estimated of 58.1% of men adults aged over 15 years old were current smokers and as the age increased the prevalence of current smoking increased by almost 20% (Kristina et al. 2016). But people with higher level of education were less likely to currently smoke than a high school education people. Through a research conducted by a university student in Yogyakarta, non-smokers indicate that they have a higher quality of life compared to smokers, and in general showed a significant relationship with others (Perdana 2014).

The different percentage of men adults smokers and non-smokers over 15 years old in Yogyakarta and their reasons to smoke.

Smoking can lead to different diseases one of them is diabetes. In Yogyakarta Province, 65% of male diabetes patients smoked before being diagnosed (Padmawati et al. 2009). But despite knowing that they suffer from diabetes, 32% still smoked in the last 30 days, many diabetic patients continue to smoke despite the hazard of smoking on diabetes complications and mortality. Lack of education is one of the biggest factors of smokers in Indonesia. They think that if they don’t smoke, they are not a real man. Smoking is used as a metaphor for masculinity, potency and bravery. and by not smoking society will treat them as ‘abnormal’ (Ng, Weinehall, Öhman 2006). The norms and values relating to smoking in Javanese society has becoming the reasons for their smoking. In Java culture, cigarettes are often introduced to young boys during the traditional religious ritual of circumcision, which in this society occurs at the age of 10–12 years. 

Icha, 16, began smoking when she was 13 after a friend offered a cigarette to smoke together. Now, she smokes at least one pack of 12 cigarettes each day (CNN Health 2017).

Therefore, smoking among Java is associated with both traditional and modern culture, as well as religious practice. Smoking is deeply rooted and accepted by the society since it was introduced in Indonesia a long time ago, in the 16th century, making smokers hard to quit and even doesn’t have desire to quit. In Indonesia smoking and tobacco advertisements were signs of several positive connotations, such as ‘a steady life’, ‘pleasure’, ‘good taste’, ‘feel so rich’, ‘impressive’, ‘good appearance’ and ‘attractive’. Government need to act fast to establish a clear understanding to citizens especially young people to not think smoking as a privileged, however they should start treating it as something they shouldn’t try since young age.

Reference List:

Indonesia Investments 2016, ‘Tobacco & Cigarette Industry Indonesia’, Indonesia Investments, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.

Kristina, S. A., Endarti, D., Widayanti, A. W., Widiastuti, M. 2015, ‘Health-related Quality of Life Among Smokers in Yogyakarta‘, International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, viewed 23 November 2019, <,Vol8,Issue1,Article18.pdf&gt;.

Ng, N., Weinehall, L., Öhman, A. 2006, ‘‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’, Indonesia Investments, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.

Padmawati, R. S., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. S., Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Smoking among diabetes patients in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: cessation efforts are urgently needed’, Wiley Online Library, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.


Senthilingam, M. 2017, ‘Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic’, CNN Health, viewed 23 November 2019, <;.

POST B: Canada’s Successful Plain Packaging Policy

Tobacco is one of the largest health issues around the world. Different countries have different ways to deal with this issue. The Canadian government is commending a new top-down national regulations for tobaccoplain packaging which they claimed as the most effective in the world (Cunningham 2018). It pointed out some interesting regulations, one of them is requiring the largest health warnings with disturbing images on cigarette packages in terms of surface area (Cunningham 2018). The aim to this regulation is to show people that smoking is dangerous and it’s not something to be proud or being exclusive about, it rather can lead to different diseases which can harm their life.

On the left, are what cigarette packages used to look like before a plain packaging law was passed, resulting in the new look on the right. (David Hammond/University of Waterloo)

Research suggests that warning labels with prominent graphic elements are more effective than text-only messages in engaging smokers, promoting quitting, and impeding “wear-out” that results from habituation to messages (Thrasher et al. 2007). Evidence from Brazil suggests that once graphic warnings were implemented there (2002), the number of calls to quit lines advertised on warning labels increased significantly, and two-thirds of smokers reported that the graphic warning labels increased their desire to quit smoking (Thrasher et al. 2007). Making a new regulation in the packaging is definitely the right move since tobacco packaging serves as an integral component of tobacco marketing (Department of Health Studies & Gerontology 2010). The pack provides a direct link between consumers and manufacturers. It is extremely cost-effective and educational at the same time. The cost of the packaging transition period will be fully funded by cigarettes company individually. The challenge that arise is that the tobacco industry strongly opposed this idea as they know plain packaging will harm their sales (CBC News 2016).

As a result of this regulation, 30 campuses were 100% smoke-free and 10 years prior, in 2007, only 4 were 100% smoke-free (Cunningham 2018). The success of the plain packaging in Canada shows that this method could be applied universally. Health Minister Jane Philpott said that the plain packaging is essential to help young people to make smart choices to stop smoking or never to start. To date, eight countries have finalized requirements for plain packaging: Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Norway, Hungary and Slovenia. Many more countries are also developing requirements. Plain packaging is recommended by the World Health Organization as an effective tobacco control measure (Cunningham 2018). As this method is proven successful in many countries, this method might also work in Central Java to decrease the number of smokers there. As I was born and raised in Java, I could understand the trend of smoking always start as a curiosity or to feel exclusive. Tobacco companies made advertisement to assume people that can smoke are privileged thus, forcing mostly uneducated underage kids to try smoking and eventually got addicted. Buying cigarette in Indonesia is also really easy. Most of the time they don’t check the IDs that makes cigarette easily accessible to everyone. I believe by using this regulation, people can be more educated and scared to even try to smoke.

Reference List:

CBC News 2016, ‘Health Canada will hold public consultations on plain tobacco packages’, CBC News, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

Cunningham, R. 2018, ‘Canada to have the world’s best tobacco plain packaging requirements’, Canada Cancer Society, viewed 19 November 2019, <;.

Cunningham, R. 2018, ‘Canadian Cancer Society report shows 65 university and college campuses in Canada are 100% smoke-free’, Canada Cancer Society, viewed 19 November 2019, <;.

Hammond, D. 2010, ‘”Plain packaging” regulations for tobacco products: the impact of standardizing the color and design of cigarette packs’, Scielo, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

Thrasher, J.F., Hammond, D., Fong, G.T., Arillo-Santillán, E. 2007, Smokers’ reactions to cigarette package warnings with graphic imagery and with only text: A comparison between Mexico and Canada’, Mediagraphic Articulo, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.