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Buy fantasy fun, light up, die young

By Duncan Graham - posted Monday, 28 May 2018

Do advertising agencies have ethics? That's questionable in Indonesia where a NEVER QUIT campaign is running free. In a market where controls are lax and the government dithers, the Indonesian tobacco lobby makes the US National Rifle Association look responsible.

Ibu (Mrs) Liya is a trader most rare, close to being unique. She deserves an award. Instead the small businesswoman in Solo, Central Java, is losing customers.

She refuses to sell cigarettes from her roadside warung (eatery) "because smoking is not good for people's health."


Indeed, though Western visitors rightly reckon that the war waged on the weed by health authorities here has never been prosecuted with Australian vigor.

The signs are obvious – literally. Many cities are visually polluted by huge billboards and banners urging consumers to buy.

Ad agencies in Indonesia seem unworried about using their talents to sell poisons. Their target is the young; as an estimated 450,000 coughers die every year the industry has to replenish the pool lest producers follow their wheezing customers and spit away profits with the phlegm.

More than 180 countries have banned tobacco advertising, though not this land next door to Australia, which hasn't ratified the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The other bludgers include the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Honduras.

This sick trio also backed Indonesia's failed bid last year to have the World Trade Organization stub outAustralian plain packaginglaws.

Indonesian ads are cheeky and pernicious though clothed otherwise. Popular now is the slogan in English: Never Quit.


'Quit' is widely used in the West to wean users. So the text has been flipped to double-entendre with pictures of sweating athletes seemingly striving for greatness.

To entice those into exercising mind rather than muscle, a rival company is pitching for students. The caption over a photo of a bookish man at a desk reads in Indonesian: 'Overcome tiredness, achieve success'.

On the crass-scale these rank alongside the infamous More doctors smoke Camel than any other cigarette ads that littered US mags last century.

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Article edited by Margaret-Ann Williams.
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 Duncan Graham has written another article on the same subject.

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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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