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Donít quit, weíre addicted to your suffering

By Duncan Graham - posted Monday, 21 August 2017

Cancer wards in Indonesia should have special visitor viewing areas. Like club boxes at sporting events, the spectators would watch the count-down while the watched gasp their way to the siren.

These observatories will be solely for VIPs – Very Immoral People. This group includes tobacco company executives and their advertising agents. In the country next door they work in a barely regulated market, vigorously promoting a product which they know kills, cripples and impoverishes.

According to Australian cancer clinics, smoking more than doubles the chances of a heart attack or stroke; it’s responsible for 85 per cent of lung cancers.  This isn’t fake news – it’s science scripture.


Getting the VIPs to witness their customers’ agonies might be difficult.  Even if attendance was compulsory these guys are seriously rich; in Indonesia they’d buy their way out of any obligation.

Indonesia is one of just eight countries that’s neither a signatory nor a party to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.  That puts the Republic way offside with the 180 states which ban or limit ads promoting smoking.

East Java is the heartland of tobacco production and Malang is at the centre.  There’s a cigarette factory directly opposite a Dutch era church and the town square. Even the banks don’t enjoy such a prestigious position.

Malang is also an education city supporting 28 tertiary institutions. Two of the biggest, the Universities of Malang and Brawijaya (around 30,000 students each) plus high schools spill their young learners onto a major road leading to the CBD.

At the first traffic lights they’re confronted by a giant billboard.  It reads in English: NEVER QUIT.  So they don’t.

More than 67 per cent of males over 15 smoke according to Indonesia’s Health Ministry. (The good news is that only three per cent of adult women are users.)


The Ministry predicts that unless serious attempts are made to butt-out the nation will lead the world in smokers by 2030. At the moment it’s number four after China, Russia and the US. While these countries are nudging public health ahead of tobacco company profits, Indonesian firms plan to double output.

That means building a market as the addicts wheeze away at a rate of around 400,000 a year.  So the kids need an introduction to Lady Nicotine who’ll mask facts with fantasies.  

What do lads want?  Fun times, macho adventure, staunch mates and gorgeous girlfriends.  Available for the rich, but few are so lucky.  The rest are puffing to find ‘satisfaction’, to ‘be bold’, become part of the ‘new generation’ and ‘get ahead’. 

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About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

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All articles by Duncan Graham

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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