Christy, 29, is an Ambonese local who was introduced to me through Tasya, a local young doctor who assisted throughout our two weeks in Ambon. Both of these women were educated and accomplished, which sparked my curiosity to learn about the role and expectations of women in Indonesian society today. I felt that as we were all at similar life stages, still unmarried and with no children, there was something interesting in uncovering the goals and challenges of women in their twenties in Ambon. Christy is a civil engineer and recently spent 18 months in the Netherlands to gain work experience as well as travelling around Europe.
The role of a civil engineer is laborious and generally requires being outdoors in the heat of the sun for long hours, a job which in Indonesia is generally male dominated. From her early teens Christy wanted to pursue this unusual career path for a woman and received criticism from her father as he expressed to her “you’re a woman you cant do that. You need us”. As many Indonesian women do, Christy lives with her father and younger sister, whom she is expected to care for. I noticed that when recounting her response to her father, she had great confidence and assertiveness in her voice, saying to him “if I need your help I will simply ask, but this is what I want”. Christy pointed out that in Java many women will go to university but will marry immediately after graduating, with the average age of marriage in Indonesia being 19.7 years old (Jong, 2015). In Ambon however, she has found that amongst her friends, many women are choosing to pursue a career and personal goals before choosing to marry and have children.
After four years of study, Christy was offered a position as a civil engineer in Amsterdam and was unsure how her family would react to such news. Hesitantly, she waited until a week before her departure date, and told her parents the news, to which they responded surprisingly well. Both incredibly anxious and excited, she set off to The Netherlands for 18 months. Through working and living in shared housing, learning Dutch and travelling through Scandinavia, Italy and Spain, she had what she now sees as ‘the greatest hands-on life experience’. Although this incredible trip through Europe is simply not feasible for many women of Ambon, it was insightful to hear a very different version of what success and life goals look like for an Indonesian woman. I noticed that her anecdotes about her trip abroad were told with such a lust for life and passion, which was refreshing to hear.
With 40 percent of Indonesia’s population still living near or below the poverty line (Harilaou, 2016) it is simply unreasonable of course to expect women to drop everything to pursue expensive international travel or to stop supporting their families. It is stories like Christy’s however that may begin to shift the role of women in a society where for so long marriage and children have been the ultimate measure of success.
When asked if she had any advice for young Indonesian women wishing to redefine their aspirations and see outside of their own reality, she suggested that travel is the best way to get first hand experience.
“Get your backpack and just go. Don’t think too much.”
Indonesia houses some of the largest cigarette companies in the world (World Health Organisation, 2018), a reality that becomes quite clear even in the more remote city of Ambon. Although discernible to the untrained eye, the streets are flooded with advertisements which hero masculine qualities and behaviour, drawing a connection between being ‘a strong man’ and smoking (Nichter et al., 2008). Instead of fighting this image of masculinity, we wanted to tap into it from a different angle: their love for their families. As a group of young women we can’t relate to an average middle aged Indonesian male smoker, but what we do relate to is family. Although parenting culture differs from place to place, there is something in the fact that no parent wants their children to smoke.
Our Research + The Insights
A self guided tour in the surrounding area allowed us to be well informed of the culture, local environment and the demographic of tobacco consumers. Identifying colours which were commonly found, advertisement styles in the area and lastly key characteristics of the noted smokers.
For further understanding, an interview was conducted with two separate hotel staff members of opposite genders. The interview revealed that all the men in their families smoke. Both interviewees had young children, and held concerns as to whether their children would grow up and smoke. However, it was assumed their daughters wouldn’t smoke based off societal expectations of women in Ambon and stigma.
The Process and Possibilities
After diverging and exploring different alternatives as to how this project would be better suited to Ambon, we explored the possibility of creating an educational kit for children to associate smoking with its negative impacts. This first campaign proposal consisted of a colouring and pop-up book amongst other items which shared the same branding and was supported by a social media campaign. We quickly realised however that the materiality was irrelevant in relation to this specific context as it was impractical in terms of production and distribution.
In initial developments of a worksheet, we had the idea of portraying tobacco as the antagonist in a comic. We went through the process of cutting up the first draft and eliminating panels to create a succinct story that fit on one A4 page. Ideas for more worksheets followed and were based on the theme of organs as characters and the negative impacts of smoking.
By nature, as designers, we wanted to create a sophisticated brand with beautiful print collateral and a refined visual style. The challenge throughout this project was to place less emphasis on the look of the final product but instead creating something genuinely relevant to our audience. This was a pivotal moment in the design process, as we then decided that the work needed meet more specific design limitations.
1. Black and white A4 format for cost effective manufacturing and distribution in order to be accessible to locals.
2. Easy to digest; Interactive and engaging for children whilst encouraging parent and child time.
3. Begin to teach children critical thinking skills, in particular when engaging with commercial advertising.
4. A way to spark questions and open up the difficult conversation a smoker parent would have with their child.
Our campaign, “The Happy Lungs Project” was developed to help parents guide and educate their children from an early age to make informed choices in regards to tobacco consumption, in the form of a series of fun and interactive worksheets. Essentially, it teaches kids not what to think but how to think critically in regards to tobacco culture and advertisements. Specifically we are targeting children aged 4-7 years old as at this stage they are beginning to start school and are becoming more exposed to external influences. As UNICEF states “early childhood, is critical for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. During these years, a child’s newly developing brain is highly responsive to learning” (UNICEF, 2013).
The five loose worksheets are easily downloadable to be printed, photocopied or shared. As initially specified in our design restrictions, the worksheets are also designed to be printed in black and white to maximise cost efficiency and ease of distribution. Available in both English and Bahasa Indonesian, they have added educational value allowing for children to learn in both languages. There is also a potential for the worksheets to be distributed as a flatpack to homes or alternatively health centers, schools, restaurants and businesses. The flatpack would also include the World Health Organisation fact sheet(UNICEF, 2020) as it is a concise summary of the impacts of smoking, which would aim to educate adults who perhaps themselves are uneducated about tobacco.
A successful precedent which also helped inform our project was an initiative in India called MYTRI. This was a classroom curricular comprised of interactive activities which aim to create awareness regarding issues related to tobacco use. As well as impart advocacy skills to students, to enable them to articulate their demands for a tobacco-free school, home and community (MH et al., 2007).
An introduction to our worksheets:
Meet the family: A colour by number activity, which familiarises children with the organs in their body, and even if they don’t understand how as of yet, they will know ‘no smoking means healthy body and a healthy lifestyle’.
Find a word: This proved to be an effective way to allow children to make connections as following a supervised test run with a 5 year old girl, it sparked questions about the words and themes presented in the puzzle. The little girl also requested definitions or further explanations. At the end of the game the child was able to deliver a simple word association about how smoking tobacco is bad for you.
The Chatterbox: This gamifies the short term negative effects of smoking, and encourages fun interactions between parents and children as well as child to child. Creating a game to demonstrate the negative effects of smoking, again encourages children to make associations between smoking and bad.
Looking for Lung: This comic was created to communicate the narrative of cigarettes as the antagonist and that we should protect and take care of our bodies.
Ad Busters: A connect the dots which reveals to be a spoof on an already existing tobacco advert. This tactic of culture jamming which disrupts or subverts consumer media, was inspired by Australia’s very own BUGA-UP. This idea of learning to think critically is especially useful for children now more than ever in a world where at all times we are being targeted by consumer adverts.
Opportunities for Further Development
‘The Happy Lungs Project’ has the potential to build and support an online community, whereby users would be able to download the activity sheets, as well as creating and uploading their own which were effective tools for their children and accommodate for personal learning styles. The campaign’s dynamic nature also allows it to maintain relevance in future years. Based on primary research, a gap in the market was identified as it is expected that tobacco targeted for women will increase in future years. Our campaign is not gender specific and is therefore not limited only to fathers. It also has the potential to expand into a series that includes DIY paper planes, cut out card games or other activities which can be adapted to suit the campaign.
This project is as accessible as a computer, phone or photocopier; it goes beyond the borders of Ambon and throughout Indonesia. This is an easy, efficient and effective way to implement change in tobacco culture starting with the children.
Ambon is an eclectic melting pot of old and new, a city built and rebuilt, a city of perseverance and determination. Interestingly the physical act of someone smoking a cigarette was hard to come by when observing the city centre. Between murals by street artists and friendly faces of children on the street, tobacco has instead asserted its presence in the city in discreet ways, with remnants of cigarettes being dotted through the streets and an amalgamation of old and new cigarette advertising taking over advertisement spaces (see figures 1 and 2). The act of smoking a cigarette lasts a mere few minutes and is a relatively small part of its life-cycle, one which at every stage has a carbon footprint that contributes to climate change and causes dire health complications for its users (World Health Organisation 2018).
Beyond the well documented health impacts of smoking, the production and impacts of the disposal of cigarettes is less widely known. We are far more familiar with how cigarettes impact the body, whilst the actual usage of a cigarette only forming 1/6th of its life-cycle (refer to figure 3). It places an immense pressure on natural ecosystems at all stages, with every one million cigarettes smoked contributing 6kg to terrestrial ecotoxicity levels and about 80ks to both freshwater and marine ecotoxicity levels (World Health Organisation 2018). Considering the 342 billion cigarettes manufactured in Indonesia every year, the rate at which tobacco is infiltrating the city of Ambon and its waterways is devastating (see figure 3). Cigarette butts can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to degrade as they are 95% cellulose acetate, a type of plastic (Novotny, T. E., Lum, K., Smith, E., Wang, V., & Barnes, R. 2009). Cigarette filters are also the single most collected item in international beach cleanups and the contamination that occurs from cigarette toxins are harmful to all living things which may be exposed to them.
The life-cycle of cigarettes is complex and as both designers and consumers, we have the tools to influence only a small but vital part of this process. There are possibilities for policies to be implemented in Ambon which may begin to ease the issue, which may possibly include increasing fines (Novotny, T. E., Lum, K., Smith, E., Wang, V., & Barnes, R. 2009) or creating achievable ways to dispose of cigarette packaging in a way that will keep them clear of Ambon’s rivers and coastline. This may take form as cigarette-specific disposal services or perhaps a more drastic change in legislation, following in the footsteps of Malaysia and making smoking in open-air restaurants and bars illegal and creating designated smoking areas with disposal services.
Perhaps the long-term environmental impacts have to take a back seat however, while the more immediate health risks are addressed – but at what cost to an already fragile ecosystem?
Novotny, T. E., Lum, K., Smith, E., Wang, V., & Barnes, R. (2009). Cigarettes butts and the case for an environmental policy on hazardous cigarette waste. International journal of environmental research and public health, vol. 6, pp. 1691-705.
The message of all anti-smoking campaigns at their core remain the same, however there is a delicate interplay of visual choices and messaging that work to make a piece of visual communication successful in delivering a powerful message. Often the health consequences of long-term smoking are grim and the reality of this can be a powerful way to leave a lasting impression on an audience. In 2001, a study in Massachusetts found that youths between the ages of 14 and 19 felt advertisements that evoked strong negative emotional were more believable and impactful about the long-term health consequences of smoking. This was compared to advertisements which positive in tone, whether humorous or entertaining (Biener, L. & Ji, M. & A Gilpin, E. & Albers, A. 2004).
In South America smoking continues to be a widespread health epidemic, with Santiago in Chile and Buenos Aires in Argentina having the highest smoking prevalence (Champagne, BM., Sebrié, EM., Schargrodsky, H et al. 2010). In 2008 CONAC or the Chilean Chilean Corporation against Cancer funded and featured a controversial campaign in which the message was ‘Smoking isn’t just suicide, it’s murder’. The campaign aimed to bring attention to effects of second hand smoke, specifically targeting parents who smoke around their young children. The result is a series of disturbing and deeply powerful imagery which through the emotional tone and production quality are quite successful. The campaign did receive criticism raising the issue of using children in advertising, particularly as these images convey deep distress and can be difficult to view. There is a level of political incorrectness and a question of the audience potentially being offended by such content, however it may be this shock factor that is the only effective way to get an audience to be genuinely engaged. Whether disgusted or moved, it certainly leaves a lasting impression on anyone who comes across it.
It is interesting to note that the specificity of the audience of this campaign may also be a contributing factor to its success rather than a generalised “smoking is bad” message. The audience of this campaign is fairly specific to parents who smoke around their young children which is perhaps easier to target than smokers as a whole. In 2014, The Cancer Association of South Africa featured a campaign in which the message was ‘did you know tobacco kills’ (see below), which as it is a broad and impersonal statement, lacks the emotional impact and engagement which CONAC’s advertisement certainly had. The imagery of cigarettes themselves with a skull aims to evoke that same fear and disgust, however what CONAC does well is by giving the message a face, particularly the one of a child, the audience has something to invest in and empathise with.
Biener, L. (2002). Anti-tobacco advertisements by Massachusetts and Philip Morris: What teenagers think. Tobacco Control, pp. 43–46.
Biener, L. & Ji, M. & A Gilpin, E. & Albers, A. (2004). The Impact of Emotional Tone, Message, and Broadcast Parameters in Youth Anti-Smoking Advertisements, Journal of health communication, pp. 259-74.