Society and Religion vs. Female Freedom (Post C)

For young women in Indonesian society, the journey through adolescence to adulthood is a time of conflict between personal desires, religious expectations and social beliefs (Pampel 2006). When looked at closely, the shared beliefs and desires in Indonesia propose opposing views, creating internal battles, particularly for young women, as they grow into their independence and thus are faced with more decisions. These conflicts can be broken down by individually understanding the nation wide Muslim beliefs, the societal expectations, the public advertising, particularly that related to tobacco, and the individual desires of young women, represented through the thoughts and feelings expressed by interviewee, Alya Nadira.

112037_gettyimages527595467.jpg(Indonesia woman smoking – Ozy, 2017)

When speaking to 21 year old ITS student, Alya, she shared the conflicts she has faced in what she claims to be a “sexist” and “judgemental culture” (2018). Although she believes in her Muslim religion and admits to praying, the young woman says she doesn’t wear the vale and participates in haram acts such as drinking and occasionally smoking. When asked why, she states “I am a young person I just want to live freely, but it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in god” (2018). The act of a young Indonesian woman smoking is viewed as taboo and those that choose to are judged and seen in the public eye as a “bad girl”. However this judgement does not exist for male smokers, with approximately 76% of the male Indonesian population smoking (The World Bank 2016).


(Malbaro campaign advertisement, Quit Big Tobacoo, 2016)

Tobacco companies in Indonesia promote an aspirational lifestyle, using images of outdoors adventures and adrenalin sports to share with the public that being a part of the smoking culture will bring freedom and adventure, targeting teenagers and young adults (Quit Big Tobacoo, 2016). This message saturates most physical and digital spaces in Indonesia, telling the public that they can obtain this life of freedom, and yet this idea of freedom seems unattainable for women, for if they do choose to smoke and follow the path of “freedom”, they are judged for it. Although the advertisements are a tactic to fuel consumerism, the fact that public advertising and the shared belief that smoking allows for an adventurous and free life, conflicts with society’s expectations of women, suggesting this goal is unavailable for them.


Within the Indonesian culture, there appears to be a double standard whereby smoking is admitted to be haram for young women, yet is completely acceptable for young men. When asked about her person desires, Alya expressed a want to “be free” from the “oppressive Indonesian culture and religion” (2018). When speaking of her future, the young woman said she would rather enjoy her years as a young adult, exercise her freedom and as an independent person even if that means sacrificing parts of her religion. “I want to act for myself” she stated, but “I need to get a place in heaven… I might change when I get older” (2018).


Fred C. Pampel 2006, Gobal Patterns and Determinants of Sex Differences in Smoking, viewed 19 December 2018, <>

The World Bank 2017, Smoking prevalence males (%of adults), viewed 19 December 2018,

Quit Big Tobaco 2016, Big advertising, viewed 19 December 2018,<;

Interviewee: Alya Nadira, 2018.

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Blog post D: Smoking for the economy, work environment and social interactions.


As we explored the intricate ins and outs of Surabaya, tobacco smoke clouded the air, proving smoking is not only a region-wide habit, but is embedded in the culture and the environment. With each turn of a street, the significance and prevalence of smoking changed dependent on international cultural influences, whether it be Arabic, European or Chinese (Silvia 2016). Furthermore, the values inherent in tobacco use change significantly as we walk along the street, observing and dissolving into the various settings from social, working, leisure and religious contexts.

The house of Sampoerna is one of the largest cigarette factories, displaying the history and growth of the 234 tobacco brand, since it was established by Liem Seeng Tee in 1932 (House of Sampoerna 2004).  Within the compound, hundreds of women are employed as factory workers, each working from 6am to 1pm, to return home afterwards and care for their children as they finish school. Each worker is given a role in the factory – rolling, trimming or packing the cigarettes. The factory provides women with a safe working environment and a generous income – enough to afford to send their children to university. Within this area on our journey, tobacco holds significance as a workplace that is essential, and one of the many tobacco factories in Indonesia that underpin the countries economy.

As we journeyed through the fish markets, stall owners sat on cardboard boxes or stools, smoking a cigarette as they wait for customers to walk through. Although the environment is loud and polluted with people, the stall owners appear relaxed and stationary as they smoke. Cigarettes are welcomed in their work environment, similarly with almost all of the workers we observed through our Surabaya journey. Painters smoked as they climbed scaffolding to paint the colourful fronts of Jalan Panggung houses. In these contexts, smoking accompanies the people as an accessory to their work environment, providing them with stress relief and a relaxed space.


(New, R 2018)

The social value in smoking can be seen in almost every space of Surabaya, as clusters of locals are scattered throughout, smoking and spending time together in a very casual way. The social significance is extremely prevalent in coffee houses. The warerkop sakam is a particularly popular coffee house – a place where locals gather for the inexpensive coffee in a space to socialise and smoke. Similar to most coffee houses, men occupied the warerkop sakam, filling the space with cigarette smoke as they chatted and drank coffee.


Silvia, A 2016, Europe Quarter of Surabaya, Pamphlet, Pertigaan Map.

House of Sampoerna 2004, A dash of history – a splash of beauty, viewed 6 December 2018 <>

Chen, J.  2018, Pabean Fish Market, Surabaya, Indonesia.


Post B: Well Intended Trauma. Gruesome public advertising for a cause.

Puss-filled blistering lips. Rotting teeth. Lungs drowned in tar. Children crying as they mourn their parents.

Although it may sound like a horror film, these images are the reality of Australian anti-smoking TV advertisements. Not only does the Australian Government attack the wallet of smokers with increased cigarette taxes, these mini films aggressively tug at the publics emotions. Targeted at 18-40 year olds, these ads display the gruesome effects of smoking, such as amputated limbs, an immobile person dependent on a ventilator, and a cancer-infested tongue (Tobacco in Australia, 2007). Furthermore, these advertisements prey on the feeling of guilt and sadness, emphasising the effects that the smokers health, and potential death, will have on their loved ones. Although some may deem these ads as overly manipulative, the shock value strategy in TV advertising has proven to be effective in raising awareness and reducing the desire to smoke (Arwa Mahdawi, 2013).


(Screenshots from Australian anti smoking advertisements, 2013).


However, these “maddeningly manipulative”  ads have caused backlash with the public audience over the years of airing (Joel Keller, 2015) . An issue with this public health strategy is that it does not exclusively effect the target audience – that being smokers. Children and non-smokers are exposed to graphic images that can not be unseen, placing a heavy weight on their emotions. This strategy has been scrutinised by some as inefficient and a harmful use of campaign resources and funds (Andrew Gelman, 2015).

 Since the 1990’s, creating and funding anti-smoking TV advertisements has been a collaborative effort between independent Australia Quit campaigns and the Commonwealth, to create National Tobacco Campaigns (Tobacco in Australia, 2007). The heart-wrenching mini films are a result of an interdisciplinary group – The health department works alongside experts in creative fields such as film, directing and costuming in order to create an authentic and effective story. It is essential that the films capture the truth about smoking, emphasising not only the health impact but the emotional turmoil that is involved in tobacco use.

Since 1995, The Australian Government has allocated funds and made a commitment to combining the tobacco control expertise and resources nation wide to create a collaborative national anti-smoking campaign. The strategy of  TV advertising has been extensively funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care – In it’s initial months of the campaign (1997 June -October), 75% of $4.5million allocated for advertising, was used. This nation wide effort and collaboration amongst states has been a great strength of this strategy in ensuring its effectiveness. (Tobacco in Australia, 2007).

Australia’s anti-smoking scare tactics have been commended on a global scale – such gruesome advertisements have become an export for Australia. In 2009, the New York City Department of Health used an Australian ad of a young boy crying at busy train station after losing sight of his mum (created by Cancer Council Victoria) (Arwa Mahdawi, 2013).The close up of the child showcased genuine tears and fear as the small boy was left alone, unaware that it was staged for filming purposes. The creative choices for filming purposes did produce a truly impactful film, which were followed by a voiceover, “If this is how your child feels after losing you for a minute, just imagine if they lost you for life.” Although this advertisement was deemed successful in reaching audiences on an emotional level, and thus educating and deterring people away from smoking, there were moral implications brought up through numerous audience complaints.

Overall, Australia’s shock TV advertisements have been proven an effective tobacco control strategy. Although they have been deemed overly aggressive, manipulative and gruesome – perhaps this is what is needed to tackle an equally aggressive global health issue which kills thousands of people yearly.


Tobacco in Australia 2007, Tobacco Control campaigns in Australia: Experience, viewed 27 November 2018, <>

Arwa Mahdawi 2013, Does Australia Have the Most Gruesome Public Advertising in the World?, viewed 27 November 2018,


Joel Keller 2015, Preemies Should Not Be Props, viewed 27 November 2018, <>

Andrew Gellman 2015, How Effective are Anti Smoking Ads?, viewed 27 November 2018, <>