Designing (out) the Tobacco Industry

The tobacco industry plays a large role in Yogyakarta’s society through its economic value via export and job creation. Due to its power, laws implemented on the tobacco industry allow for flexible design application through mainly advertisement and sponsorship of events and social media influencers. Designers also play a large role in the branding associated with packaging and streamlining of machinery for maximum product output.

  • Cigarette marketing in Indonesia is among the most aggressive and innovative in the world. As Sampoerna noted in their annual report in 1995: ‘‘Indonesian companies have almost total freedom to advertise their products in any format and through any communications vehicle in the country’’.  Unfortunately, this statement is as true today as it was over a decade ago. The reported expenditure by the tobacco industry on advertising in Indonesia in 2006 was Rp 1.6 trillion (approximately $178 million US dollars). (Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia, p.99)

Having not signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), popular Indonesian events such as ‘Java Rockin’Land’ are subject to sponsorship of tobacco companies like Gudang Garam, who promote ‘big name’ western artists under advertisements  designed to be accessed online, through print media and television to attract national attention. Gudang Garam also promoted discounted tickets for students’ months prior to the event in hopes that a large number of there impressionable minds will be subject to high intensities of tobacco advertisement in connection with western ‘star power’. It is this double standard that many affluent western artists and influencers have that is becoming a main contributor to the tobacco industries increasing flourishment in Indonesia and are therefore incurring rebelling protest from Indonesian anti-smoke organisations such as the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. 

Through design activism, creative culture makers and designers can combat this tobacco epidemic through actively engaging in functional design that tackles social, environmental and political issues. By engaging campaigns through pop culture’s broad societal umbrella, the effectiveness of anti-smoking design activism would not only stay contemporary but would also allow current understanding and connectedness to become apparent in community settings. Targeting these ideas through event sponsorship and social media campaigns would be noticeable as an active engagement in protest against the tobacco industry’s indifferent marketing tools. ‘Truth’, a successful anti-smoking organisation from the United States, has become well known for its youth campaigns through website design, social media hashtags and contemporary activist approach to increasing trends such as vaping. 


Post D: The Tobacco Economy

The Cycle of Economic Tobacco Influence

The Indonesian Tobacco market is one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world and is very quickly becoming a national health crisis. Bringing in an approximate $15.8 billion AUS to the country’s economy in 2018, the tobacco industry equates to 10 percent of the total Indonesian economic market. The revenue associated with the tobacco industry in Indonesia however diminishes in comparison to the enormous health costs associated. According to the Indonesian ministry of health, $62.2 billion AUS was spent fighting the health crisis in 2015, four times the amount of revenue generated from tobacco sales. So, if the Indonesian economy is losing copious amounts of money to the health risks associated with tobacco, why haven’t they implemented stronger laws imposing the use of the drug? 

According to the World Health Organisations (WHO) report on the global tobacco epidemic in 2019, 62.9 percent of Indonesian men above the age of 15 are daily smokers. However, the statistics drop considerably with women, having only 4.8 percent smoke daily, equating to a national percentage of 33.8. The tobacco industry is also Indonesia’s second largest employer of citizens, behind the government, and frequently exploits cheap child labour under minimal health standards to grow and harvest the product. Many Indonesian families face strict financial situations earning an average yearly income of $5000 AUS, so any possible employment for a family to survive is a must. Most of these families work on Kretek tobacco fields, which is a blend of tobacco, cloves and other flavours to produce a ‘tastier’ experience for the smoker. In 2009, the US banned the importation and distribution of Kretek within the country in hopes that it would discourage youth from smoking. To put this into context, it is important to recognise how tobacco companies market a product under extremely loose Indonesian laws to popularise a ‘tastier’ tobacco experience, therefore increasing the use of the drug and the health risks associated. Indonesian’s under the age of 20 equate to 45 percent of the national population, so tobacco companies are eager to advertise, and often exploit their young impressionable minds into a culture that’s tobacco intake continues to climb. 

Correspondent, A.F. 2019, Indonesian child smoking, ABC, viewed 26 November 2019, <>.

Due to the tobacco industries considerable financial contribution to the Indonesian economy, few restrictions are in place for tobacco marketing and advertising. Newspapers, magazines, billboards and television advertisements of tobacco bombard Indonesian society, often influencing potential ‘new-comers’ that smoking can help you control your emotions, enhance your masculinity and uphold traditional Indonesian values while simultaneously promoting modernity and globalisation. Although the legal age for the distribution of tobacco is 18, tobacco venders often capitalise on younger individuals, illegally selling single cigarettes to minors for only a few cents.  


Post B: Slip! Slop! Slap!

Source: Council, C. 2014, TV still of Cancer Council’s Slip Slop Slap campaign, Australian Broadcasting Network, viewed 17 November 2019, <>.

In 1981 the ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ campaign was launched by SunSmart and went on to become one of Australia’s greatest successes in the fight against skin cancer. Launched as a TV commercial, everyday Australian civilians would become to feel at home with a cheerful seagull in board shorts, t-shirt and hat who danced his way across tv screens singing the ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ jingle. 

During the time, Australians were experiencing skin cancer at an alarming rate most likely due to the hot Australian climate, our cultural love to be outdoors and lack of education on skin protection. As the dominate cause for melanoma cancer is extended time in the sun, the ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ campaign had to induce cultural change as well as educate a wide range of age groups, genders and cultures. ‘Sid the Seagull’ became the character that wedged the ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ campaign into Australian culture with his ‘Aussie bloke’ accent and “sizzle like a sausage” slang. By giving this universal jingle an entity, it allows the message to have an origin and therefore allows viewers to connect on a more serious level with the message presented. 

Source: The Original SunSmart Campaign with Sid the Seagull, Video Recording, Youtube, viewed 17 November 2019, <>.

The aesthetic of the campaign is another cultural connecting factor in the effectiveness of its widespread education. The rough illustrations and use of pastel colours appeal to a younger audience (the future), while the jingles lyrics and illustrations of working men may appeal to an older audience (educators). The Cancer Council of Victoria and VicHealth have been funding SunSmart since 1988. With the help of their funding, SunSmart has increased the use of sunscreen in everyday activities, educated individuals to prevent sun damage through the correct choice of clothing and has increased the number of individuals seeking medical checks. The campaign to reduce skin cancers has been successful because it was a comprehensive, integrated community awareness campaign. In addition to TV adverts, SunSmart has extended its educational reach by targeting public health messages through social media, schools, workplaces, the fashion industry and the television and movie industry as well as the surf lifesaving community and many others. 

A Survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare was published in 2017 to examine the incidence rates of melanomas from 1997 to 2014. The ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ era (under 40) see clear reductions in melanoma incidence rates, while the 40-60 age bracket are just levelling out, and the over 60 age bracket continuing to climb. 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017) Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality books, 2017

By examining this successful health campaign, we can take and apply effective elements to other campaigns regarding health issues. The ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ campaign has proven that education from an early age has a distinct relationship to change and effect within culture, not just over a specific era but over multiple. A psychological standpoint on the effectiveness of the campaign’s reception must be focused on as well. The ‘Slip! Slop! Slap! campaign has worked so efficiently over time because of its universality through sound and sight, but also because of its distinct inclusion of all target markets.