It’s Time for Us to Change: Exposure to Cigarette Advertising Among Youth

Every design has a consequences to its surrounding, whether in the forms of political, technical, ideological or social (Stolterman & Lowgren, 2004). As a designer, the impact of our work or design towards the society is our responsibility. Stolterman and Lowgren (2004)  stated that when a designer accepted a job, he or she should be driven by the client wishes, however a professional designer should always stand on their integrity to reconsider other aspects that would impact his or her work. We always have to keep in mind that any designs has direct influence to the growth of its surrounding, where the design takes place or being published to the society.

Nowadays, ethical design has been the trend; many people believe that designers should create with a good cause. Yet, it is still rare to see an ethical design on tobacco products. Like this one, during my trip in Surabaya, I pass through this advertisement boxes which really caught my attention (see figure 1). It did not cross my mind that it was a cigarettes advertisement. There were some youth groups taking pictures with the light boxes, it  is undoubtedly a beautiful installation. They played this enticing  graphic video of the tobacco company’s brand for about 30 seconds and then the warning image with this really small pixelated words for about 5 seconds (see figure 2). It was very concerning and upsetting to see, the design is obviously constructed that way.

7ada2852-154e-4831-95e7-3e3ed98f0999figure 1: Light boxes installations for Djarum Cigarette Advertisment in Food Festival, Pakuwon City, Surabaya
079a3cd3-a72b-4cd7-8679-749cf311dc40figure 2: pixelated and tiny health warnings on the end of the ads.

In Indonesia, the tobacco industries are generating US$22,688 million in 2018 (Statistica 2018). The unrestricted legislation of tobacco advertisement are playing a huge role of success in Indonesian tobacco industries (Nitcher et al. 2008). Most Indonesian tobacco brands on advertisements are associated with a lifestyle and masculinity (Reynolds 1999).  This strategy is suitable to the youth in Indonesia, where the promotion, advertising and sponsorship of youth activities by cigarette companies is becoming intense. One of the well known cigarette brand, A-mild, has a creative academy which gathers creative young Indonesians to join and show their talents in many fields such as photography, musicians, visual art, and others (Go Ahead People n.d). Looking at Australian alcohol culture and policy; Australia also has an issue about the exposure of alcohol. In 2012, PHAIWA, (2018)stated that 91% of Australian are worried about the alcohol use in the mid of young Australian. Moreover, in 2010 Australian government record that alcohol related harm are costing AU$36 billion a year (Laslett et al. 2011). It is predictable that this issue occurred because of one of the factor that there is a connection between high exposure of alcohol advertisements to drinking behaviour of young people (Anderson et al. 2009). To tackle this problem, Australia alcohol beverage industries agreed to make a self- regulation organization called ABAC(The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code), to make sure that the advertisements are appropriate for the young people (William et al. 2016).

With both industries cause problems on the way they advertise, the future designers have to see this as a challenge where their design should be appropriate to the social environment. It is good to always look back to what already happened or being done from those tobacco company, like the light boxes examples, and try to take over the generations for healthier future.



  • Anderson, P., de Bruijn, A., Angus, K., Gordon, R. and Hastings, G. 2009,’ Impact of Alcohol Advertising and Media Exposure on Adolescent Alcohol Use: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies’, Alcohol and Alcoholism, 44(3), pp.229-243.
  • Go Ahead People n.d., viewed 20 december 2018, <;.
  • Laslett, A., Room, R., Ferris, J., Wilkinson, C., Livingston, M. and Mugavin, J. 2011, Surveying the range and magnitude of alcohol’s harm to others in Australia,Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation, Canberra, 106(9), pp.1603-1611.
  • Nitcher, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y., Nitcher, M. 2008, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, no. 2, viewed 19 December 2018, <;.
  • Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia, Alcohol related harm among young people in Australia, Viewed 20 December 2018, <;
  • Reynolds, C. 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: defining characteristics for success’, Tobacco Control, vol.8(1), pp.85-88,  view20 December 2018,<;.
  • Stolterman, E. & Lowgren, J. 2004, Thoughtful Interaction Design, MIT Press, Cambridge.
  • Statista, 2018, Tobacco Products – Indonesia, U.S, view 20 December 2018,<;.
  • William, P., Ferrell, O., Lukas, B., Schembri, S., Niininen, O. & Cassidy, R. 2016, Marketing principle, 3rd ed, Cengage learning Australia, Victoria.

POST C – ‘I would’ve been rich, if I didn’t smoke.’

My trip to Gresik was even more exciting with Pak Yalfari, a Grab driver, who is cheerful and loves telling stories. On the way, I told him that I am going to visit this woman who is a throat cancer survivor. Pak Yalfari was immediately sounded very curious and repeatedly ask questions about this woman. I asked him why he is interested about her story. Then, he acknowledged that he was once a heavy smoker for 30 years. He discovered a cigarette from his friends and had been addicted to smoking since he was 10 years old.


Before migrating to Surabaya for working as a worker in an export-import ship company, he was born and raised in a small village called Kerinci in Jambi, Sumatra. Kerinci village are surrounded by lots of plantation. The cold atmosphere in the village triggers people to smoke. Pak Yalfari said to me that it is rare to meet people who are non-smokers; the fact that Kerinci get the highest rate of smokers compared to other village in Jambi (Departemen Kesehatan RI 2018). Not only men, women who are farmer or married are mostly smokers (Tribun Jambi 2011). He already knew the dangers of smoking from advertisements and health warnings on the cigarette packs, yet the pleasure of smoking is stronger than the long-term effects. From an interview in a scholarly journal about smoking behavior, it is concluded that people admitted that smoking was able to provide a sense of relaxation and warmth (Mulyani 2015).

‘Smoking is a waste,’ said Pak Yalfari. During the trip, he made a joke and imagined the calculation of money if he did not use his money to buy cigarettes instead saving them. ‘I would’ve been rich, if I didn’t smoke,’ he said with laughter. He smoked 3 packs for 2 days regularly, that means if one pack is 20.000 rupiah, he spent 60.000 rupiah every two days.

Yalfari’s wife, who is a nurse, always encouraged him to quit smoking because his mouth became stink. He also realized some changes in his body. His stamina weaken, he would be easily exhausted when doing fast activities. Moreover, before he went to bed, his breath sounds like a loud pinched sound. But none of this stopped him from smoking. Until he worked as a freelance driver, before he became Grab’s driver. He realized that many of his clients who smoke have a very bad breath, the smell stuck on his car and was disrupted him while driving. Since that time, Pak Yalfari has begun to reconsider his smoking habits. Until 10 years ago, he decided to quit smoking. Pak Yalfari found that he could quit easily because it is based on his own desire. The pleasure of cigarettes is still haunting his head sometimes, but considering his wife and the disgusting effects of cigarettes, he dares not to touch cigarettes again.

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Tobacco advertisings seen on small shops (warung) and billboard during our way back to Surabaya from Gresik.

In addition, when I wondered about the massive cigarette advertisements displayed in small shops or warung along our trip, it turned out that Pak Yalfari is involved in this matter. He owns a warung in Sidoarjo. Even though Pak Yalfari is non-smoker now, yet he confessed to still accept any sponsorship money from the tobacco company.  It cannot be denied that the tobacco company is very helpful for small businesses like warung to get their main fund for free (Nitcher et al. 2008). Pak Yalfari said that advertising small banners usually paid for 3 packs of cigarettes, and large banners can be paid up to 300,000 rupiah.


Post D – Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Cigarette: Smoking Culture in Surabaya

Smoking is a very natural thing in Indonesia, especially in the lower middle class in North Surabaya. It is culture since the second president era around 1967 which united Indonesians, also smoking is considered as one of the ways to communicate to others (Fuaddah 2018). There are many men from young to old who smoke freely in various places (see figure 1 & 2). One of the cause of the continuation of this smoking culture is because of the lack of knowledge supported by the poverty in Indonesia, which makes children who do not continue their education is not a surprising thing. From the data of Child Protection Institution in Surabaya, 70% of Indonesian smokers come from the poor family (Warkota 2018). Therefore, this tobacco issue is a big thing considering that these next generations do not get any proper education or health knowledge in this case; and they will be carrying this cultural practice to the future.

figure 1 (left): A group of old and young men seen smoking in warung at Kalimas Road  (Kezia Oktavia 2018)
figure 2 (right): A man smoking on his becak  at Surabaya Chinatown, Kembang Jepun Road (Kezia Oktavia 2018)

By looking at the smoking old men, there are few incongruities that can be seen. The social position of old men is supposed to be a father or at least the breadwinner for the family. Considering that the men I saw there just blowing smoke inconsiderately, like these two substantial moments I captured: a man that smokes on their becak (Indonesian traditional public transportation) and the fishmonger that blowing the smoke onto the fishes while offering people to buy (see figure 2 & 3). Talking economic-wise, how can you market your product like that. Also with the small wages, a man needs to fulfil their family needs and children’s education, and yet still set aside some money for cigarettes. On the other hand, a father should become an example for his children, where the children do not get the right needs as well as the victim of second-hand smoking when at home (Muslech 2014).

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figure 3: Fishmongers seen smoking while offering people to buy at Pabean Fish Market (Kezia Oktavia 2018)

In some other area in Surabaya is more modern from the North Surabaya. Like East, West, Central Surabaya people are more reluctant to smoke in public place and indoor area, also smoking room is more common (Sumarno 2009). Contrasting Indonesia with a develop country like Sydney is an example to understand the situations. Both smoking cultures are very contrast, Sydney has more clear legislation than Indonesia, like the ‘4 metre law’ which banned people from smoking within 4 metres from public buildings (Smoke-free Environment Act 2000). Sydney’s fine on smoking out of place is bigger than Indonesia’s fine affecting Sydney people to be more careful to smoke. Moreover, people in Sydney are more educated and thought more about health conscious and all the bad effects of the second-hand smoker. The self-awareness has been growing inside the people to be more considerate to smoke in public places even though there is not much of smoking signs in Sydney.


figure 4: Hand drawn map of people seen smoking and children around on our Surabaya’s Arab and Chinese Quarter Tour with C20 Library representatives  (Kezia Oktavia 2018)



B. Japan’s Commitment for Future Smoke-free Japan

Tobacco smoking kills an estimated 129,000 Japanese in Japan every year based on 2007 data, and more than half of them die because of second-hand tobacco smoke (FCTC 2018).  Additionally, there are significant different in the life expectancy between the smoker and non-smoker elder people, whether men or women (see figure 1). As the numbers keep dropping, this concern carries a big attention to the WHO FCTC and the Japanese Governor to make sure that Japan will improve the health populations in the future.

table 1Figure 1 Japanese people who born between 1935 -1945 (Sakata et al. 2012)< >

Japan’s health policies relating to tobacco are vague and minimal. Furthermore, Japanese law does unclear motive whether they are committed to ban smoking in public area. One of the Japanese tobacco law in The Health Promotion Act stated, ‘Article 25 of the Health Promotion Act is non-binding and asks managers of certain enumerated public places, and “other facilities used by numerous people” to “try to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent passive smoking exposure” (The Health Promotion Act 2002, s. 103).’ Additionally, in a review site about Japanese tobacco control law also stated that, ‘At the national level, the language of the laws are not obligatory in nature and do not require managers or employers to ban or restrict smoking in workplaces, but rather “to endeavor” or “to try” to take measures “as necessary” (, 2018).’ Thus, these two statement showing that Japanese tobacco laws does not align with the FCTC Art. 8 Guidelines that indicate certain places in Japan to be smoke-free (Guidelines on Protection from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke 2007).

There is no other way for Japan but to take slow step by step as the Japanese learn to change for their own health benefits. Starting from Tokyo, Japan Governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, was in an uproar to achieve his goal of smoke-free Tokyo that plan to be held before the Olympic games in 2020 (FCTC 2018); also a starter to accomplish Japan Art.8 of the Convention to World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The announcement came out of the country and brought people from outside to use this opportunity to support Japan. Phillip Morris, the British American Tobacco company is collaborated with Japan Tobacco company to raise up the smokeless heated-tobacco device, named IQOS (Phillip Morris International n.d.). With certain temperatures settings, the device will not burn the cigarette but heat them to avoid the release of smoke; instead a nicotine containing vapor will release. IQOS has been released in Japan not long after the smoke-free statement in 2014.

However, there is always a negative and unsolved problem after seemingly to be solved. The device is a ‘safer’ smoking device, means it will just slow down the risk of tobacco related diseased and not completely solved it. And while the use of the device is very expansive, more people are still going with the old way. A lot of remaining things that has to be carried by Japan government, like the health warnings on tobacco packaging and advertising who had been a struggle for them to overcome with the tobacco companies and relevant departments of government (The Japan Times 2017, para. 5).