Post A: Exploiting Notions of Creativity and Empowerment

Recognised as one of Indonesia’s art hubs, Yogyakarta is home to over fifty art and cultural spaces (Bruhn 2015). With photography and film collectives, experimental music spaces, cultural studies centres and more, it is not difficult for artists (established or aspiring) to explore and find their ‘niche’ within this city. Alongside commercial success, these artists have the freedom to challenge authority in public spaces, but more importantly have the agency to create a gateway for social change.

“Working collectively in alternative spaces breeds a more organic understanding and attachment to a politics that challenges both capitalist and state orthodoxy” (Abbot, cited in Bruhn 2015).

However, it wasn’t always this way.

The DIY culture surrounding the art communities of Yogyakarta only arose from the 1990s amongst activists, sub-cultures and artists. In particular, a cultural activist organisation named Taring Padi was formed there in 1998 when the former president was overthrown by the student and people’s movement. Taring Padi fought for open democratic spaces in society, allowing art to be used as a tool for political expression and education for all (Taring Padi n.d.). To achieve this, they used live music as ‘artistic camouflage’ to spread their message and communicated to the people through big banners, performance art and their punk and rock ‘n’ roll lyrics (Indonesia Art Activism and Rock ‘n’ Roll 2002).

(Harmony gives strength: Weapons don’t overpower humanity, 1998)

As a cultural movement, ‘everything that we voice, all the yells that we holler we use a different form, that’s art’ (Indonesia Art Activism and Rock ‘n’ Roll 2002).

However, many tobacco companies are feeding into the arts scene, using tactics that allow themselves to be heavily rooted into Indonesian and Javanese youth and activist culture. The Indonesian tobacco company Sampoerna has linked itself as a sponsor to the concert series SoundrenAline.

SoundrenAline (The Beat 2019)
Line up for SoundrenAline with smoking warning (SoundrenAline 2019)

Its marketing activities have expanded into social media to influence the youth to associate smoking with music, creativity and self-expression. A clear example of this is their ‘Go Ahead Challenge’ which encouraged people to get involved in designing a limited edition A Mild cigarette package (Astuti, Assunta & Freeman 2018). The winner was a young Indonesian artist and his design features a red finger print, with the words ‘Go Ahead, be yourself & be brave!’ lining the interior packaging. This ‘creativity’ and ‘empowerment’ message was shared at the concert, along with the new limited-edition cigarette pack, and more than 65,000 Instagram posts marked with the A brand marketing hashtags were found (Astuti & Freeman 2018).

Considering the roots of design activism in Indonesia, and how it arose as an art movement for the people, this exploitation of idealised notions of creativity by the tobacco industry is far from fair. Thus, while it may be difficult to get governments to play a more dominant role in restricting tobacco advertising and sponsorship by enforcing already existing regulation, artists and creatives can utilise their practice and engagement with local communities to confront these contemporary concerns.

Stakeholder Map


Astuti, P.A.S., Assunta, M. & Freeman, B. 2018, ‘Raising generation ‘A’: a case study of millennial tobacco company marketing in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 27, no. 1.

Astuti, P.A.S. & Freeman, B. 2018, ‘Tobacco company in Indonesia skirts regulation, uses music concerts and social media for marketing’, The Conversation, 31 July, viewed 22 December 2019, <;.

Bruhn, K. 2015, ‘Art and Social Engagement in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Ketjilbergerak and the Legacy of Taring Padi’, Seismopolite, 29 December, viewed 22 December 2019, <;.

Indonesia Art Activism and Rock ‘n’ Roll 2002, Monograph, House of the Red Monkey, Indonesia.

Taring Padi n.d., About Taring Padi, viewed 22 December 2019, <;.


Post C: Football Sponsors and Tobacco

Football is the most popular sport in Indonesia. Everywhere you look, children are wearing football jerseys, and teenagers are playing football. Many cigarette brands sponsor professional teams, and game coverage. For example, Djarum, an Indonesian Kretek manufacturer sponsored the top football league from 2005-2011, to the tune of over 6.5 million dollars in 2011. (AFF, 2010).

Ega, 24, is in his last semester of college, where he studies economic management majoring in human resources. While he admitted to trying cigarettes as a teenager, he never pursued tobacco because his father does not smoke. “I follow my dad.” Ega is a keen football player and a die-hard Cristiano Ronaldo fan. “He is big, strong and compact, he can jump very high!” I asked him how he would react if Ronaldo took up smoking, and interestingly, unlike most of the young men that football sponsors target, Ega claimed that he would not be impressed. “Even if my idol smoked, I would not think cigarettes were cool.” 

Ega, 24, from Yogyakarta.

Although his friends encourage him to smoke, Ega chooses not to because he knows about the health detriments and “I know I can save a lot of my money if I don’t”. Ega dreams of visiting Times Square when he graduates, and it’s clear that his strong self-efficacy influenced by his parents, and high level of education, is what gives him the strength over his friends to not take up tobacco use. “An individual’s evaluation that they have the physical capacity (to avoid tobacco) will enhance evasion” (Elshatarat, 2016). 

Ega believes that due to tobacco’s strong relationship with the football scene, the sport is not as healthy and beneficial as it should be. About half of his team smoke, and spectators are allowed to smoke, even on the indoor courts. “They (the football association) know it’s bad, but want the profit. It’s evil in a way.” I expressed how different sponsorship is in western countries, and how our sportspeople encourage the youth not to smoke, until Ega reminded me that we might not be so different after all. “It’s just like Liverpool though, they promoted Carlsberg, that’s a beer!” Talking to Ega made me realise that tobacco isn’t the only problem, it’s the media and the way sponsorships and advertisements prioritise profit, no matter where they are in the world. He gave me hope though; his intelligence and personal strength is admirable and I can soon see people like Ega inspiring the younger generation.

Spot the difference: An Indonesian Football team’s jerseys, with tobacco company Dunhill printed across the front, vs English Premier League team Liverpool’s jerseys with sponsor Carlsberg Beer.


AFF 2010, DJARUM INCREASE ISL SPONSORSHIP TO USD4.5 MILLION, Asean Football Federation, Indonesia, viewed 21 December 2019, <>.

Elshatarat, R., Yacoub, M., Khraim, F., Saleh, Z., & Afaneh, T. (2016). Self-efficacy in treating tobacco use: A review article. Proceedings of Singapore Healthcare25(4), 243–248.

Post A: Influencing the #WrongDecision

Social media influencers have a particular responsibility to ensure they are endorsing what is ethical and moral, especially considering their vastly youthful and heavily impressionable audiences. Those who make the conscience decision to provide sustenance to the tobacco industry via social media enable its continuous growth, as online promotional material is becoming exponentially more effective.

Stakeholder Map

A recent study into the intensity of tobacco promotion behaviours revealed the frequent use of obscured use of images and hashtags, that may not directly advertise cigarettes (Astuti, P.A.S. et al 2019). Despite the recent crackdown efforts of Indonesia’s communications minister Johnny G. Plate to ‘cull cigarette advertising content on the internet’ (Silviana, C. Potkin, F. 2019), there remains an alarming amount of events catered to Indonesia’s youth, heavily sponsored by tobacco companies. One of Indonesia’s largest tobacco manufacturers Gudang Garam has cultivated ‘PROJAM’, which is a skateboarding and BMX event, with an Instagram following of 38.8k. Promoting exciting activities with messages such as the heroic way: #caraksatria and friendship: #temenanitu and featuring the unmistakable ‘PRO’ logo in almost every photo, surrounded by full of life and energetic scenarios. There is no doubt here of the companies clever infiltration to the youth of Indonesia through this online means. Instagram page with use of #temenanitu meaning friendship (, 2019)

Designers and creative culture makers, along with every other individual, can determine their own moral standpoint in support or disapproval of the tobacco industry and have the ability to utilise their stance and influence for the better or worse. Influencers can be an agent for change by being open and honest with their sponsorships, which can spark a chain reaction, and create opportunity for sincere discourse among tobacco companies, influencers and their audiences. The dangers of enticing the next generation of smokers through non-overt ads as seen below have only seen the beginnings, and it isn’t easy to predict how far this can be taken (Garcia, F. 2019).

Subtle cigarette ad. The brand wasn’t tagged nor mentioned in the Facebook post. (Amin, A. 2018)

Indonesia’s political stance is one of the most significant barriers for change amongst designers, creatives and stakeholders, as there are few restrictions on tobacco advertising in Indonesia, as the nation is yet to sign the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Bachelard, M. Stark, J. 2012). Meaning that no matter how hard designers alike try, the unwavering endeavours of the tobacco giants will remain. However, through the careful consideration of their intended audiences and how they react to different mediums, designers and creative culture makers located in Yogyakarta and surrounds, can work to spark positive change for the long term.


Amin, A. 2018, Have it all’, Facebook, 6 April, viewed 20th December 2019, <>&nbsp;

Astuti, P.A.S. Kurniasari, N.M.D, Mulyawan, K.H. Sebayang, S.K. Freeman, B. 2019, ‘From glass boxes to social media engagement: an audit of tobacco retail marketing in Indonesia’, Tobacco control, vol. 10, no. 11, pp. 1-8.

Bachelard, M. Stark, J. 2012, ‘In Indonesia, big tobacco hasn’t got a worry’, The Sydney morning herald, 26 August, viewed 20th December 2019, <>&nbsp;

Garcia, F. 2019, ‘How the tobacco industry targets young people with social media influencers’, Dazed, 13 February, viewed 20th December 2019, <>&nbsp;

Hurt, R.D. Ebbert, J.O. Achadi, A. Croghan, I.T. 2011, ‘Roadmap to a tobacco epidemic: transnational tobacco companies invade Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312.

McCormack, A. 2018, ‘Big tobacco are using Instagram influencers to advertise cigarettes, advocates warn’, ABC triple j hack, 3 September, viewed 20th December 2019, <;, 2018, ‘Collision’, Instagram, 29 March, viewed 20th December 2019, <>&nbsp;

Silviana, C. Potkin, F. 2019, ‘Indonesia cracks down on online tobacco ads to deter young smokers’, Reuters, 14 June, viewed 20th December 2019, <;

Witabora, J. Adidharma, K.S. Luzar, L.C. Meilani, M. Soedarso, N. 2016, ‘Usability, design, and content issues of mobile apps for Indonesia cultural art promotion: A Balinese mask’,  Humanoira, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 427-439.

Post C: Smoking on Campus

When researching how to change the smoking mindset of the Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta campus, no information was more important than the perspective of students currently experiencing campus life.

I sat down with Chilmi, a 26 year old student studying international studies for his second time after exchanging to Germany and restarting his degree in Indonesia. Because of this, Chilmi had the interesting perspective with both German and Indonesian schooling experience. Chilmi stated that he does not and never had been a smoker, which surprised me given he was the only student out of the many I had asked who was not a smoker.

When asked if his socialising was affected by his not smoking, Chilmi stated that it was often difficult when all his friends gather to smoke and he feels like an “outsider”. He said this was especially difficult in his younger years, which isn’t surprising as research suggests that smoking increases dramatically between the ages of 11 and 17, from 8.2% to 38.7% (Smet, Maes, De Clerca, Haryanti, Winarno 1999). He was raised in a family of male smokers with both his father and brother smoking when he was younger. Although students are aware of the penalties for smoking on campus, Chilmi did not believe that either the non-smoking signs, nor the reminders students receive from lecturers were effective enough in convincing students to stop. 

Photo of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta campus no smoking sign

As part of our group design product I researched the differing sociodemographic factors that can effect and change the determination of mindsets, summarised as education, experience and prejudice. I brought this into the conversation asking if these summarised categories sounded correct in changing ones perception of tobacco around campus. Chilmi responded positively stating that education and experience heavily influenced his decision not to smoke. He also discussed how further introducing other socialising experiences around campus could help in lowering the amount of smokers; having a slow progression into different social experiences as a way of replacing social smoking. 

A person’s values guide their everyday life and decision making. Quality changes through teachers, employees and educational institutions could be most effective therefore when changing the mindset. This can be divided into two parts, ‘the formulation of the mindset and the communication of the mindset’ (Yuliana 2018). The formulation of a mindset can be changed through trend watching, envisioning and formulation of paradigms. Whilst the communication of the mindset that has been formulated can be changed through both personal behaviour and operational behaviour. (Machali, Hidayat 2016). 

Chilmi helped me understand this, as what he experiences through his friends and his own personal reasoning for not smoking can be summarised under his minds formulation and communication.


Machali, I., & Hidayat, A. 2016, The Handbook of Education Management, Jakarta, Kencana Prenada Media.

Yuliana, A. 2018, ‘Total Quality Educational Mindset Formation at Muhammadiyah Elementary School Kleco Yogyakarta’, Tadris: Jurnal Keguruan dan Ilmu Tarbiyah, vol. 3, pp. 1-67.

Smet, B. Maes, L. De Clerca, L. Haryanti, K. Winarno, R.D. 1999, ‘Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 186-191. 

Post C: Pedicabs of Prawirotaman

“The becak (pedicab) is as much a motif and symbol of Indonesia as the silhouette of a wayang kulit puppet, or the smell of a clove cigarette.”

(Admintih, 2016).

The pedicab is an integral part of Yogyakarta’s traditional culture. Stemming from the tourism boom pre 1980s, it is “employed as an important marketing tool for cultural tourism in Yogyakarta” and is in fact banned from major Javanese cities – but there it is “tolerated by the authorities” (Smithies in Dahles, H. & Prabawa, T.S. 2013, p. 242). Most of these men live in villages outside of the city, often travelling back to their hometown via motorbike (the pedicab is parked in location) or even sleeping overnight in their pedicabs to provide late service to tourists. More than any other participants in the informal tourism sector of Yogyakarta, pedicab men remain strongly embedded in their village community, with their earnings flowing back to the community they come from (Dahles, H. & Prabawa, T.S. 2013). However, given my recent visit to Yogyakarta, it was clear that the pedicab has lost its prevalence and the interests of many.

Pedicabs with Money Changer Sponsorship (Tan, 2019).

I had the blessing of speaking to one of these pedicab drivers in Prawirotaman, an area that is rich with the integration of traditional culture and modern design. Adi Tama, a 38-year old pedicab driver, points the cause of this fall towards people’s preference for convenience. With apps such as Gojek and Grab, tourists are less inclined to choose the pedicab, even when the bicycle of the pedicab had been swapped out for a motorcycle. With this decline in customers, I inquired what Adi and his fellow drivers do to cope, to which he answered “we find sponsors… we have other work.” Adi himself has 3 other jobs, 2 of them in the tourism industry, and 1 as a mobile handyman in his hometown, and is sponsored by Money Changer (they receive monthly funds for bike repair and are given packs of cigarettes, and also meat every religious holiday). The sponsorship of cigarettes is what was concerning, as “tobacco is responsible for 4.2 million deaths every year, a figure that… is estimated to reach 8.4 million by 2020” (Minh, H.V., Ng, N., Wall, S. et. al 2005, p.1) with “most smokers [coming from] lower education and economy levels” (Barkina, T., Dewi, V. K., Isnaniah. & Kirana, R. 2014, p.2). With the stresses of a declining job market, the sponsorship tips of cigarettes and the busy lifestyle of a pedicab driver, it is no surprise that these men are at risk of a low chance of cessation.

On this note, Adi details his choice to be a pedicab driver was due to the fact that he and many others his age couldn’t afford further education. He’s had to learn English, German and Dutch from tourists. He’s grateful that with the new government established 5 years ago that his children can afford tertiary education, as “education is an important predictor of being a regular smoker. Men with less education tended to smoke regularly and cease less.” (Minh, H.V., Ng, N. Wall, S. et. al, 2005, p.6).

Although the pedicab is becoming scarcer on the roads of Yogyakarta, the gentlemen behind the cab are here to stay. When asked what his plans for the future is, Adi replied “I’m saving up, I’m saving up for something else, something better.”


Admintih, 2016, Becaks, the traditional transportation in Indonesia, topindonesiaholidays, viewed 20 December 2019, <>.

Barkina, T., Dewi, V. K., Isnaniah. & Kirana, R. 2014, ‘ Smoking behavior and attitude towards cigarette warning labels among informal workers in Surabaya city – East Java, Indonesia’, Advances in Life Science and Technology, vol. 21, pp.1-2.

Dahles, H. & Prabawa, T.S. 2013, ‘The case of the pedicab drivers of Yogyakarta, Indonesia’, Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, vol. 26, no.3, p.242.

Minh, H.V., Ng, N., Wall, S. et. al 2005, ‘Smoking epidemics and socio-economic predictors of regular use and cessation: Findings Ffom WHO STEPS risk factor surveys in Vietnam and Indonesia’, The Internet Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 3, no. 1.

Post C: Tattoo and Tobacco

Although tobacco is depicted to be a social activity in Indonesia, where it is overly associated with positive stereotypes of enhancing masculinity by exercising, indirectly forcing reflection of social and political status. Yet few individuals have recontextualised smoking, integrating tobacco into their lifestyles with completely different reasons and directions compared to the general public of Indonesia. El Kamprettoz, is a tattoo artist located in the centre of Yogyakarta City, who utilises smoking as a method to support creativity and influence artistic vision, stating that his creativity thrives and peaks when relaxing with a cigarette.

Nanjang University of Arts Exhibition 2019, left to right, Setu Legi, Bay Widodo, El Kamprettoz

El Kamprettoz has been doing tattoo for more than twenty years in Indonesia, he uses tattoo to be a platform of this artistic works. Yet being in a mainly conservative Muslim country, where individuals who have tattoos are usually associated with criminal activity and stereotypically of having a mutinous nature, has made strictures for Kamprettoz to freely express his works. Only decades ago Indonesia was exposed to the extrajudicial killings called Petrus Killings during 1983-1985, where Suharto, the second president of Indonesia, unannounced, exercised undercover snipers for alleged criminals  to be publicly executed. This terrorized the general public, creating a paranoia of discrimination to those who appeared in a nonconformist fashion. The public was encouraged to report men with tattoos to the police. This enforced the stigma, eradicating most tattoo business, or forcing them into underground  markets, where tobacco and drugs became a popular source of payment for artworks. Creating a tattoo culture around these devices creates a liability issue for the tattoo artist who reject such drugs, portrayed to be more tamed and less passionate.

Smoking becomes this meditative practice, especially for artists, smoking, psychologically allows a space and time to separate yourself from the hectic nature of life. Kamprettoz, believes smoking is more a statement of the mind. Although, nicotine helps with concentration and relaxation, he states that it is mostly the belief of such effects, which assists him and his daily life. This is understanding of tobacco was once mutual,  during the 15th century, Nicotiana acquired a reputation of being a ‘holy herb’ and ‘God’s remedy’, having a therapeutic medicinal benefit to most bodily ailments such as catarrh, cold, fevers and digestive issues. More recently in 1991, those associated with nicotine lacked the most relationship with neuropsychiatric diseases.

The first published illustration of Nicotiana tabacum by Pena and De L’Obel, 1570-1571

Paul A. Newhouse & John R. Hughs 1991, The role of nicotine and nicotinic mechanisms in neuropsychiatric disease, British Journal of Addiction, Wiley Online Library, viewed 20October 2019

Anne Charlton 2004, Medicinal uses of tobacco in history, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, USA, viewed 20 October 2019

Benedict R. O’G Anderson 2001, Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia, Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program Cornell University Ithaca, New York, viewed 20 October 2019

Simon Chapman 1995, Smokers: why do they start- and continue?, World Health Forum, Viewed 20 October 2019

Mimi Nitcher, Mark Nitcher, S. Padmawati, M.Darnardono, N. Ng & Y. Parbandari, Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia 2009, Tobacco Control volume 18, Issue 12, BMJ Journals, viewed 20 October 2019

Post A: SYTC Yogyakarta

Upon visiting Yogyakarta – Indonesia’s “cradle of Javanese culture” (Dahles, H. & Prabawa, T.S. 2013, p.245), it’s clear to see the city’s pride through the design that’s found in every aspect of the environment. From the colourfully painted pedicabs to the bold walls coated with murals by the youth, it’s evident that “design plays a role in forming and communicating national identity in Indonesia” (Crosby, A. 2019, p. 53). However, within this rich city lies a poison rotting away at the heart of the culture. With its bright colours and encouraging messages you wouldn’t think harm of it, but let’s take a look at these examples.

Show Your Colours by Phillip Morris (Vital Strategies, 2017)

With its striking reds, blues, yellows and whites under the slogan “Show Your Colours”, these houses along Kali Code River in Yogyakarta “didn’t just catch the attention of local people – the stunt gained national and international notoriety” (Vital Strategies, 2017). Unknown to the residents, the village had in fact been transformed with the brand colours of Phillip Morris International (Indonesia’s largest tobacco company) to essentially be one giant advertisement (Emont, 2016) at an estimated exposure worth at US$220,000 a month (Vital Strategies, 2017). In response, the campaigns “Show Your True Colours” and #SuaraTanpaRokok (or “Voices Without Cigarettes”) was released in collaboration with Muhammadiyah Tobacco Control Centre and several organisations and activists in Yogyakarta “as a symbol of resistance towards the exploitation of the community by the tobacco industry” (Vital Strategies, 2017). Led by renowned local graffiti artist Koma, giant anti-tobacco murals painted onto these houses were unveiled on World Cancer Day. Although the tobacco industry has a tough grip on the community as the Indonesian government relies on the industry for “around 10% of state tax revenue” (Emont, 2016), the examples of activists working with the community shows that change can be made through the people.

Show Your True Colours (Vital Strategies, 2017)
Java Rockin’ Land Poster 2011 (Cranberries World, 2011)

Another example is the poster for Java Rockin’ Land 2011 posted around Indonesia, it boasts a line-up of bands like Thirty Seconds to Mars and Neon Trees. However, another name displayed alongside these artists is Indonesia’s second largest tobacco company, Gudang Garam (Hefler, M., Chapman, B. & Chapman, S. 2013). It’s not unusual for the tobacco industry to sponsor arts and cultural events such as these, but this sponsorship received a backlash due to the band’s high level of teen appeal and activity in philanthropic efforts in UNICEF and cancer charities. In response, a campaign by Tobacco Control was held through Facebook, tobacco control organisations, and Twitter to target the band’s management and press agents. In response to fan’s petitions, Neon Trees (a band with a history of antitobacco advocacy) announced that at the end of their set they would donate their earnings to an Indonesian cancer charity (Hefler, M., Chapman, B. & Chapman, S. 2013), and posters for Rockin’ Land post 2011 no longer feature sponsors by tobacco companies.

The examples of these two campaigns show the complex relationship between designers, culture-makers, artists, customers, and the tobacco industry. Each group is the source for cause and effect in the preservation of Yogyakarta’s culture.


Cranberries World, 2011, Java Rockin’ Land,, viewed 20 December 2019 <>.

Crosby, A. 2019, ‘Design activism in an Indonesian village’, MIT Press Journals, vol. 35, no.3

Hefler, M., Chapman, B. & Chapman, S. 2013, ‘Tobacco control advocacy in the age of social media: using Facebook, Twitter and Change’, Tobacco Control, vol.22, no.3.

Dahles, H. & Prabawa, T.S. 2013, ‘The case of the pedicab drivers of Yogyakarta, Indonesia’, Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, vol. 26, no.3, p.245.

Vital Strategies, 2016, Anti-tobacco advocates in Indonesia show their true colors, viewed 20 December 2019, <>.

Vital Strategies, 2017, Tunjukkan Warna Aslimu – Kali Code (1 menit), video, YouTube, viewed 20 December 2019, <>.

Post C: This is Tobacco Manifest

In the inescapable surroundings of secondhand smoke, inundation of advertising and ash trays at almost every dinner table, there are flickers of hope. My flicker of hope came in the form of my conversation with Aisha Putri, an 18 year old international studies student I met by chance in Malioboro as I asked her for some directions. 

Every single day, over 15 million children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes (Salih, S.K. Mukhtar, B.I. 2011) and Aisha is one of those unfortunately making this statistic a harsh reality. All of the significant male figures in her life are smokers, the most alarming of them all being her younger brother who is only 16. Aisha said she thought he would never be a smoker but that was until she caught him with his friends. A study into the behaviour of young male smokers going to school in Semarang, Indonesia, outlines that they are 4 times more likely to smoke if their best friend does (Smet, B. et al 1999) and this is the case for Aisha’s younger brother. 

I then asked how would she feel if she could make her father, brother, uncles and cousins stop smoking. The way in which her face lit up and body relaxed as she said “It would make me very happy” demonstrates just how imperative change is in Indonesia’s tobacco culture. Her first reason being the pollution it causes. 

“People don’t consider their surroundings and just do it everywhere, even if there’s a kid around them.” 

We then discussed how tobacco advertising is banned in Australia, and despite the fact that she would be very thankful if that was the case in Indonesia, she immediately saw why there are no such regulations. Aisha contemplated for a short moment, but came to a conclusion that the advertising is there to take advantage of people, to take their money and to continue the dominance of the tobacco industry in Indonesia. 

The manifestation of tobacco advertising in Aisha’s life is alarming. She said that every chance the tobacco companies get, they take. From TV, social media, in restaurants, shopfronts, billboards… you name it, it’s there. To capture attention of consumers, visual recall is vital, specifically in the form of corporate symbols, visual identity and slogans (Mallia, K. L. 2009), and is utilised by Indonesian tobacco giants to consistently take hold of their consumer. 

My invaluable conversation with Aisha cemented alarming research I wanted to believe wasn’t true. Listening to her first hand experience of a lifetimes worth of inundation in Indonesia’s tobacco culture provided me with a significant starting point to work from, in order to begin to design out the wicked tobacco problem.

Aisha, to the right of myself, with 2 of her friends in Malioboro.


Mallia, K. L. 2009, ‘From the sacred to the profane: a critical analysis of the changing nature of religious imagery in advertising’, Journal of media and religion, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 172-190. 

Salih, S.K. Mukhtar, B.I. 2011, ‘Effects of passive smoking on children’s health’, Sudan journal of medical sciences, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 131-136. 

Smet, B. Maes, L. De Clerca, L. Haryanti, K. Winarno, R.D. 1999, ‘Determinants of smoking behaviour among adolescents in Semarang, Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 186-191. 

Post C: Environmental impacts

After spending half month stay at Java, Yogyakarta, keeping explore and research of the tobacco industry. I can feel that the tobacco industry has already become an integral part of Indonesia’s culture. It can be seen on the advertising billboard full of streets and ubiquitous smokers. But the biggest problem of Java is the environmental impacts, such as second-hand smoke and advertising impact.

Through researching the smoke-free public area Malioboro street, where is the centre of Java and the cultural centre of Java. I met Bowo and interviewed him. He is a 32 year old man who was born at Jogja. He start to smoke when he is 11 year old. I heard he began to smoke in such a young age was shocked even I already known there are a lots of youth smoker in Indonesia from the research data before the trip to Yogyakarta, which is about one million children under the age of 16 in Indonesia smoke, and one-third of Indonesian children try to smoke before the age of 10(Meyersohn & Harris 2011). I asked him, ‘why you start smoking, what effect you to start smoking’. Bowo said that he mother and father all smoking, but this is not the main reason he starts to smoke. What affects him to smoking is his friends ask him to taste the cigarettes. And told him smoking would make him look more refreshing as a man. I asked him whether he knows smoking might affect the lung and cause other health problems. And why he don’t try to give-up the behavior of smoking. He said ‘he know smoking is not good, but he can’t quit it as they will sit and gathering with their neighbors when they get off the work everyday’. According to the data from World Health Organization(2018), there are 14.7% people death because smoking. But there are only 9.5% daily smokers quit tobacco use every year. It can be seen, the behavior change as quit smoking are not really easy for Indonesian. Furthermore, I continue to chat with him about whether his children and wife smoking. He said he have 2 child. A ten year old daughter and a five year old son. Neither wife or children are not smoking. But his daughter have poor resistance that always cough because of bronchitis. From the CDC(2018), second hand smoke is no less harmful than first hand smoke. It also can cause lots of problem such as middle ear disease coronary heart disease and respiratory symptoms and impaired lung function etc.


CDC 2018, Health effects of secondhand smoke, smoking & tobacco use, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 19 December 2019, <;.

In conclusion, the problem of smoking in a large proportion of Indonesians is a difficult problem to completely solve in Yogyakarta. Because there are many different environmental factors in Indonesia. Not only cause by the streets advertisements,which is use to attract Indonesians to smoke, but Indonesian also smoke when they are have free time, and the influence of family smoking.

Reference lists:
Meyersohn, J. Harris, D. 2011, From age 2 to 7: why are children smoking in Indonesia?, ABC News, viewed 25 November, <;.

World Health Organization 2018, Heart disease and stroke are the commonest ways by which tobacco kills people, Factsheet, Indonesia, viewed 19 December 2019, <;.

CDC 2018, Health effects of secondhand smoke, smoking & tobacco use, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 19 December 2019, <;.

Post C: Male Smoking Patterns – An Interview with a Becak Driver

Becaks alongside stalls at Malioboro (2019)

An interview with Luqman, a 42 year old becak driver in Yogyakarta provides insight into his personal experience with smoking. Aged 14 and eager to follow in his father’s footsteps, he was deeply curious about the ‘relaxing’ and ‘stress-relieving’ effects of smoking. It is known that increasing age, and the influence of friends, sibling and a father who smokes were found to constitute risk factors in habitual smoking (Skulberg, Hamid & Vaktskjold 2019), and this proved true in Luqman’s case. And although it is hardly fair that millions of children are suffering from malnutrition, millions of Indonesian fathers are choosing to spend more money on cigarettes than on meat, eggs or milk for their children (Sumartono et al. 2011).

Ironically, his father forbid him from smoking. But with his pocket money, he secretly purchased a cheap brand of cigarettes to try. Once employed, he transitioned to a more expensive brand for its ‘good taste’ and also increased the quantity he smoked daily “from half a pack, to one pack, two pack and then three pack a day”, with one pack containing a total of 16 cigarettes. This sharp increase in smoking in Indonesia is argued to be the direct consequence of the decision to open the Indonesian tobacco industry to foreign investors during the 1990s economic liberalisation (Hurt et al. 2012). With more than 1,000 cigarette companies based in Indonesia (Prabandari & Dewi 2016), the domination of the tobacco industry limits the country’s ability to control the advertisement and sale of cigarettes.

But it was only 5 years ago that Luqman stopped smoking due to health issues such as eye irritation and respiratory problems. He immediately thought of smoking to be the culprit and finished his remaining cigarettes that day, to dramatically reduce his intake the next morning. I questioned whether he still smokes at social gatherings if there are other smokers present, as in advertisements, smoking is portrayed not only as socially encouraged for young men, but also part of the enjoyment of being young and establishing one’s masculine identity (Nichter et al. 2009). He replied yes, but he is no longer accustomed to the bitter taste so his body reacts negatively by vomiting. The fact that he still partakes in smoking to ‘socialise’ is a clear case of the tobacco industry reading, reproducing and working with Indonesian culture as a means of selling cigarettes.


Hurt, R.D., Ebbert, J.O., Achadi, A. & Croghan I.T. 2012, ‘Roadmap to a tobacco epidemic: transnational tobacco companies invade Indonesia’, vol. 21, no. 3.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Prabandari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18.

Prabandari, Y. S. & Dewi, A. 2016, ‘How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students’, Global Health Action.

Skulberg, K.R., Hamid, S. & Vaktskjold, A. 2019, ‘Smoking Among Adolescent Males at Pulau Weh, Indonesia’, Public Health of Indonesia, vol. 5, no. 3.

Sumartono, W., Sirait, A.M., Holy, M. and Thabrany, H. 2011, ‘Smoking and Socio-Demographic Determinant of Cardiovascular Diseases among Males 45+ Years in Indonesia’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 8.