Post C: Interview with Junaidi

A trip to Banjarmasin, Indonesia has shown me many interesting perspectives of the country I thought I knew. Fortunate with the opportunity to grow up in two contrasting countries, Australia and Indonesia, I have witnessed the difference of smoking culture and the attitudes surrounding “Rokok”.From living in Australia, where Rokok would be heavily criticised, coming to Indonesia and experiencing first hand the Rokok culture has been astonishing. Many young Indonesians in Banjarmasin still believe that smoking is a symbol of masculinity and bravery (Ng 2006). This belief is also true for Junaidi, my interviewee, from a young age.


(source: Nicholl 2017)

Junaidi is a 43 year old man who worked in Menara Pandang as a page during our stay in Banjarmasin. His stories revealed an insight different to what I’d have thought toward Rokok based on his own experiences. Junaidi admitted that he was a smoker, labelling himself as a casual smoker based on his financial instabilities and being wary of the long-term negative impacts of smoking which deterred him from falling to severe dependency and complete addiction. Junaidi confessed that one of the reasons why he picked up smoking in his high school years is because the act was perceived as a cool, brave thing to do. This emphasizes the idea of peer pressures alongside the false sense of self-image as a prevalent catalyst of smoking and its addiction in Indonesia. Junaidi, despite being aware of the consequences of smoking, continues to smoke occasionally. Junaidi said “Sudah terlanjur”, saying that the reason he continues is because he has already had a taste of the cigarette; the tobacco along with the bravado he believed came with it. He acknowledged that had it not been for his current financial situation, he would most likely consume more cigarettes and become dependent on them as many of the population has.

The supposed disadvantage of being unable to purchase as many cigarettes as he’d like has actually helped Junaidi in some areas. He mentioned that with his limited funds he could only buy cigarettes individually. The one stick may not satisfy his overall addiction however it allows him to work toward consuming less cigarettes, because he is forced to. This method gave me an insight to the different ways tobacco can be sold to accommodate the different lifestyles of the Indonesian population.

Junaidi, aware of the dangers of smoking, strongly advises his children not to smoke. His father was a smoker and he wished he had been taught the same thing. He believes that his children, as a new generation of young non-smokers, can pass the ideal onto the future generations, smoking addiction decreasing with each generation until it’s completely abolished. In spite of being a casual smoker himself, Junaidi is slowly carving a healthier future for his family and also others around him.

My interview with Junaidi was definitely an interesting and memorable.Through the interview, one can easily recognise the big impact of ‘Rokok’ culture in Indonesia that sellers can even accommodate low income people by selling it individually. Our small exchange convinced me that Indonesia’s Rokok culture can change for the better as it is slowly being recognised as bad.




Nawi Ng, Weinehall, L., Öhman, A. 2006., ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’—Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’ ,Health Education Research, vol. 22, no.6, pp. 795

Nicholl, A. 2017, Untitled, Slack, viewed 25 January 2018

Semba, R., Kalm, L., de Pee, S., Ricks, M. 2016, ‘Paternal smoking is associated with risk of child  malnutrition among poor urban families in Indonesia’, Public Health Nutrition, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 10





“Its so cheap (to buy cigarettes), its like buying candy and its everywhere either advertised or sold.” (Fatiana, 2018)

Tobacco advertising in Indonesia is extremely aggressive and innovative, and tobacco advertisements saturate the environment. Tobacco companies are politically and financially powerful in the country because they are one of the largest sources of government revenue. As a result, there are few restrictions on tobacco marketing and advertising. National surveys reveal that 65% of Indonesians are smokers. Smoking is firmly embedded into everyday life, and is perceived by many to make up historically the social and cultural fabric of Indonesia. The tobacco industry reads, reproduces and works with culture as a means of selling cigarettes. This is all achieved in the guise of the tobacco companies as ‘supporters of Indonesian national identity’.

Ampihi Mangaramput! 3 copy

Statistic shown during the Vital Strategies presentation about the rise in youth smoking over the last 4 years. It is a major concern that they are working to reduce. (Image: Vital Strategies. 2018.)

I interviewed Rayda Nurlies Fatiana (21), a local university student, hoping to understand further and gain an insight into there home town of Banjarmasin, why it is that smoking is a rising issues especially among the youth to hopefully provide a window more broadly into the social paradigms of Indonesia.

Rayda is part of a youth organisation that conducts projects that aim to inform youth of the wicked implications of tobacco. They aim to promote health and positive change throughout her city. When I asked who the tobacco company target, she responded in a mater of fact tone ‘the youth’. She further explained that it wasn’t just with posters on main streets and in residential areas or posters out the front of school yards but their marketing ran deeper; “they run music concerts with international musicians playing! It was hard even for me to resist.” (Fatiana, 2018)


Statistics produced by CNI documenting the percentage of males over 15yrs smoking in the South-East Asia area.(CNI,2015)

Indonesia can best be described as an “advertiser’s paradise”, as it is a largely unrestricted regulatory environment. 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”.(Sampoerna,1995) This statement is as true today as it was over a decade ago Rayda explains; “there is very little regulation. Companies still advertise outside schools.”(Fatiana, 2018)

Another prominent form of advertisement in Indonesia is the sponsorship by the industry of local and international jazz and rock concerts, cultural events, and sporting events such as Formula One and national and local basketball and soccer competitions. The tobacco industry offers numerous scholarships to attend colleges.


Concert advertisement poster for popular American singer Kelly Clarkson sponsored by tobacco brand ‘L.A. Lights’ (Java Musink Indonesia, 2010)

“its just sad to think that these big companies have so much power because they’re rich and they don’t have our (Indonesia) interests at heart.” (Fatiana, 2018)

For the young and impressionable youth they sell and aspirational image of what it is to be a man and not only that its so cheap, ‘its like buying candy.’ (Fatiana, 2018)a-mild-mula-mula-722x400

Billboard depicting a youthful, carefree ‘aspirational’ couple. ( L.A Lights, 2011)

As Rayda explained this and her hope for the new generation to different, to alter the generational values. However, with a culture  where tobacco is so strongly invested so deeply in the economic, social, and political fabric, the need for not for profit organisations like Vital Strategies who work as an independent unit become crucially clear.


Reference List:

Schewe, E. 2012, ‘Why Do So Many Indonesian Men Smoke?’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Vital Strategies. 2018, ‘Ampihi Mangaramput!’, PowerPoint presentation, viewed 08 January 2018

World Health Organisation. 2014, Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Indonesia, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Steinberg, L. & Monahan, K. C. 2007, Age differences in resistance to peer influence, Developmental Psychology, Vol 43(6), 1531-1543

Senthilingam, M. 2017, Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic, CNN, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Sohn, K. 2014, A note on the effects of education on youth smoking in a developing country, Vol. 19, Iss. 1, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Google images. 2018. Tobacco advertising.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

Google images. 2018. Tobacco advertising.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

Google images. 2018. Tobacco statistics.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

Google images. 2018. Tobacco concerts.…36724.38898.0.39313.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.0.0….0.eTv2z_rPWCM#imgrc=CUgrmmUF0NOWBM:. [Accessed 25 January 2018].

POST C: The Rise In Youth Smoking? An Interview With Youth Leader Gading Fajar

As one of the top four tobacco consuming countries in the world (Anshari, D. 2017.), Indonesia is lagging behind in terms of control systems. (Schewe, E. 2012.) It wasn’t until I arrived in Banjarmasin that I fully understood the severity of the issue, particularly in the prevalence of youth smokers. As Vital Strategies mentioned in their presentation, the increase in youth smokers in South Kalimantan rose from “25% in 2013 to 48% in 2017”. (Vital Strategies. 2018.)

Ampihi Mangaramput! 3 copy
Statistic shown during the Vital Strategies presentation about the rise in youth smoking over the last 4 years. It is a major concern that they are working to reduce. (Image: Vital Strategies. 2018.)

During my travels, I noticed that there are many factors that have contributed to this. For example, there were social influences like peer pressure and smoking role models such as parents and teachers. There was also heavy exposure to tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships. Even the opportunities to smoke in Indonesia were easier than Sydney. For example, people could smoke in public places like the hotel lobby.  My collaborative experience in Banjarmasin, working closely with Vital Strategies led me to several opportunities to meet and interview the local community and students. This allowed me to gain insight into where exactly the tobacco issue comes from and why the issue is increasing rather than decreasing.

Gading Fajar, aged 19, is a non-smoker who works in Banjarmasin. He volunteers with a few organisations, including Vital Strategies, that aim to promote health and positive change throughout his city. I decided to interview Gading given the trend for increased smoking amongst the youth. “About 30%” (Fajar, G. 2018.) of Gading’s friends smoke, but he goes against the social norm to do this because he believes that “the new generation can make a good movement to make Banjarmasin a beautiful and healthy city” (Fajar, G.) that is “tobacco free.” (Fajar, G.) Gading would also be able to help me better understand why youth smoking has increased over the last four years in South Kalimantan.

Data from the most recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey in 2014 shows that the frequency of youth smokers aged 13 to 17 in Indonesia was 35% among boys and 3% among girls. (World Health Organisation. 2014.)

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 6.16.44 pm
Data from the most recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey shows that in Indonesia, it is mostly the men who smoke. (Image: World Health Organisation. 2014.)

Smoking rates may be higher for young boys because “it portrays the image of potency, wisdom and bravery”. (Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall, A. & Öhman, P. 2017.) Similarly, Gading believes that smoking is more popular amongst men in Banjarmasin because “they think if you smoke it can make you more of a gentlemen and women will like you more but if a female is smoking they are seen as a bad girl.” (Fajar, G.) Gading further explained that even though his father smokes, he has never felt pressure from him to do so. However, when he hangs out with his friends who do smoke, he says he often feels “alone” (Fajar, G.) because he is “teased and laughed at.” (Fajar, G.) During our interview, he recalled one “painful” (Fajar, G.) memory of being physically hurt by his friends for choosing not to smoke. “In junior high school when I did not smoke, my friends who were smoking put out their used butt on my arm, leaving a scar”. (Fajar, G.) I believe that if organisations like Vital Strategies want to decrease youth smoking prevalence in South Kalimantan, they need to focus on breaking down the stigma that men should smoke.

gading arm.jpg
Gading’s scar from when he was purposely burnt by his friends with a used butt for choosing not to smoke. (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

One aspect of Banjarmasin I noticed that is different to Sydney is the large amounts of signage promoting tobacco products and street stores selling them. We even saw one right outside a primary school. This moment made me wonder whether these tobacco advertisements have contributed to the rise in the number of youth smokers in South Kalimantan. Gading agreed with me during our interview as he thinks that the youth believe it is “cool to smoke because there are so many tobacco advertisements, information and sponsorships in Banjarmasin.” (Fajar, G.)

Glamourised signage directly above a street market selling cigarettes opposite a primary school. The legal age to purchase cigarettes (18+) is only put in small writing in the top right hand corner. (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

I also observed that the youth in Indonesia may be encouraged to smoke as the health concerns related to smoking and second-hand smoking are not emphasised. Although the packs have small health warnings on each side, I noticed it does not appear to be enough to put people off smoking. However, Gading thinks that the health warnings on cigarette packets are strong enough because they made him realise that smoking would make him “sick.” (Fajar, G.) He is of the view that maybe some people do not “care” (Fajar, G.) about the pictures because they think “if I’m not smoking I will die, and if I’m smoking I will still die too, so it is better to smoke to death.” (Fajar, G.)

When analysing cigarette packaging in Banjarmasin, I noticed that the health risks related to smoking are not as obvious compared to the plain packaging I see in Australia (see previous post). (Image: Nicholl, A. 2018.)

As an advocate for many smoke free initiatives, hearing Gading’s experiences of working in Banjarmasin was fascinating as it has confirmed my perspective on what smoking is like for the youth of Banjarmasin. I have understood the necessity for organisations such as Vital Strategies and volunteers like Gading to emphasise not only the positive change a smoke free environment could bring, but to also promote the detrimental effects tobacco smoke has on their surrounding community members and environment, particularly for the youth.


Reference List:

Anshari, D. 2017, ‘Effectiveness of Pictorial Health Warning Labels for Indonesia’s Cigarette Packages’, Doctoral Dissertation, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Fajar, G. 2018, Interview, 19 January 2018

Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall, A. & Öhman, P. 2017, ‘If I Don’t Smoke, I’m Not A Real Man’-Indonesian Teenage Boys’ Views About Smoking’, Health Education Research, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 794–804, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Nicholl, A. 2018, Cigarettes Advertised and Sold Outside of School, 08 January 2018

Nicholl, A. 2018, Gading’s Burn on Arm, 19 January 2018

Nicholl, A. 2018, Glamourised Cigarette Packaging, 08 January 2018

Schewe, E. 2012, ‘Why Do So Many Indonesian Men Smoke?’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Vital Strategies. 2018, ‘Ampihi Mangaramput!’, PowerPoint presentation, viewed 08 January 2018

World Health Organisation. 2014, Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Indonesia, viewed 23 January 2018, <;

Post C – Feminism & Islam

My interview with Dewi Rara enlightened me to an understanding of Islam, as a source of faith and a daily routine. Though we discussed a multitude of topics, from petrol prices to smoking and drug trade in Banjarmasin, what was most inspiring was the pride and vigour with which this woman regarded her religion.

27479686_1599654490104281_286990128_o (1)

My introduction to Islam begins rationally: with talk of their god, Allah. Everything relates back to him and to ensure there is no devil. Small tasks such as entering a room with the right foot, and exiting with the left, form the details of a larger image of ultimate dedication and submission. We discuss dress codes and the use of the hijab as a woman’s symbol of respect and decency. I ask if it matters that I wore a t-shirt with my arms showing, and she says “it doesn’t matter, we still respect other religions so you don’t have to cover up.” Dewi Rara continues, that women should cover themselves for their husbands’ privacy and that only he should know what is underneath, comically adding, “it’s like, SURPRISE!”

The struggle for equality, justice and freedom against patriarchal Islamic structures is undeniable. Dewirara explained that when girls menstruate they can’t pray because they are “unclean.” So how could a woman assert her independence and advocate feminism when even an involuntary physical occurrence is a facilitator of dishonour? Western feminism defines women as not being subject to tradition, culture or social coercion. [Afrianty 2017] The liberation of public protests and social media campaigns such as #freethenipple is worlds away from acts that are acceptable within the umbrella of Islam. However, Malaysian speaker Zainah Anwar CLAIMS that “Islam gives women the right to define what Islam is.” Concurrently, Ghayda confessed that she did not believe that “all problems can be solved within an Islamic framework because not all problems are strictly Islamic” [2017], which promotes a re-evaluation of teachings and oppressive behaviours.

I chose, perhaps boldly, to discuss Islam as it was the most startling cultural difference I encountered whilst in Banjarmasin. With Muslims covering 88% of Indonesia’s population, it was hard for me to accustom to such a large volume of people sharing the same, seemingly restrictive devotion. Feminism is a fickle issue in consideration of existing practices and principles, but perhaps it is not about challenging one’s beliefs, but more so about empowering oneself with a dutiful and more notably, enjoyable approach.

Symons, E. (2017). ‘Dangerous’ women: Why do Muslim feminists turn a blind eye to Islamist misogyny?. [online] ABC News. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].

Afrianty, D. (2017). Indonesian Muslim women engage with feminism. [online] The Conversation. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].

Baulch, E. and Pramiyanti, A. (2017). Hijabers of Instagram: the Muslim women challenging stereotypes. [online] The Conversation. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].

George, K. (1998). Designs on Indonesia’s Muslim Communities. The Journal of Asian Studies, 57(3), p.693.

Mir-Hosseini (2006). Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality: Between Islamic Law and Feminism. Critical Inquiry, 32(4), p.629.

Vandenbosch, A. (1952). Nationalism and Religion in Indonesia. Far Eastern Survey, 21(18), pp.181-185.

Majid, A. (1998). The Politics of Feminism in Islam. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 23(2), pp.321-361.


Post C: Banjarmasin youth and smoking

imageFrom preparing to visit another country to part-take in a project focused on anti-smoking and researching statistics, I had a somewhat expectation of the wicked problem of tobacco use in Banjarmasin, Indonesia. However, it wasn’t until arriving in the beautiful city and being immersed in the interesting culture and environment, that I came soon to understand that my initial expectation of the tobacco problem was very much underestimated.

Though I was able to visually observe the use of tobacco in Banjarmasin and the extremity of tobacco advertising, it was only through discussing with a university student named Nadira, that I came to understand the smoking culture in Banjarmasin. Born in a small town near the capital city of the Banjar Regency in South Kalimantan; Martapura, Nadira spent the majority of her life witnessing tobacco use in her friends.

Being a part of the youth in Banjarmasin, Nadira has recently witnessed the quick increase of tobacco use amongst her friends. She explained that in Indonesia it is very typical for teenage boys around the age of 14 to 15 to start smoking, and to increase their tobacco use quite frequently till the point where at the age of 20 the majority of her male friends are having two packets of cigarettes a day.

When discussing these extremities, I observed quickly that Nadira automatically associated smokers with being male. Wanting to understand this association, I asked Nadira questions focused on the link between smoking and gender. She explained that as a vastly rough and exaggerated estimation that she believes that 99% of the smokers in Banjarmasin are male. She believes the smoking culture in Banjarmasin is centred on “smoking equalling being manly.” Nadira describes this characteristic of the smoking culture being a leading factor as to why the majority of the male youth start smoking cigarettes.

Nadira discussed, that the majority of the Banjarmasin youth grow up in homes with families of smokers. Young boys would witness potentially their brothers, fathers and grandfathers smoking. And consequently from this, a connection between smoking and manliness has formed and added a social pressure on young teenage boys to start smoking.

Through this discussion with Nadira I was able to understand that the root attraction to begin smoking amongst youth in Banjarmasin typically starts within the family/home environment.

Reference List:

Bevins, V. 2017, Indonesia, where smoking is widespread, just placed tough restrictions on e-cigarettes, The Washington Post, viewed 23 January 2018

Hurt, R. Ebbert, J. Achadi, A. & Croghan, I. 2012, ‘Why do so many Indonesian men smoke?’, Jstor: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 306-312

Jong, H. 2016, Indonesia on track to world’s highest smoking rates, The Jakarta Post, viewed 23 January 2018

Ng, N. Weinehall, L. & Ohman, A. 2007, ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’- Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’, Health Education Research, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 794-804

Sulaiman, N. (2018) Primary Research- Interview about Tobacco use with youth in Banjarmasin


Post C: Dina

Banjarmasin is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with a captivating clash of old and new cultures. From its floating markets to its immense industrial shipping yards, it is very clear upon first observation that the city revolves around its rivers, which seemingly act as the veins of the land.  Although Indonesia is home to many cities, with many different cultures within them, a common thread unites the nation – high rates of cigarette usage and addition. Banjarmasin is not exempt from this dark shadow that falls over the country.

Walking through the city of Banjarmasin, there is no escape from this fact: men smoke while they work, and conveniently located cigarette stalls and large billboard advertisements fill the streets. During my time in the city I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to visit Universitas Lambung Mangkurat, the oldest university in Kalimantan. There I met a student named Dina who studies Primary School Teacher Education. She is 20, and she enjoys her education, K-pop, and spending time with friends after university. I took the chance to understand more about the problem of tobacco in the area, and had an engaging conversation with Dina about young people’s involvement with smoking, and her own personal experience of this.


Dina, a 20-year-old student at Universitas Lambung Mangkurat.

Dina currently lives with her grandparents, as her parents live in a small village far from the city. Dina recounted the first time she was affected by smoking – at school. When some of the boys in her class began smoking, aged 15 years old, they would “leave the classroom and go out for a smoke, as they were not allowed to do it inside the class.” Hearing this was shocking, as not only did it reveal that kids as young as 15 were smoking, but that they were also missing out on their education. At that age teenagers are extremely susceptible to peer pressure (Steinberg & Monahan 2007) meaning others in the class would be at high risk for taking up smoking too. As discussed in a previous blog, Smoking Culture in Indonesia, there are a number of reasons why smoking is taken up by the youth in Indonesia, especially in males.

However, Universitas Lambung Mangkurat is a smoke free area and Dina (a non-smoker) is very aware of tobacco’s damaging effects on the body. She spoke about how she was taught in school about the dangers of smoking and described the confronting television advertisements that she has seen in Indonesia. Although it does not prevent all the students from smoking, Dina believes that less people are now smoking in Banjarmasin because the dangers of smoking are taught in school and at university. This presents a contrast to the rest of the country as the rate of smokers under 18 in Indonesia between 2013 and 2016 rose from 7.2% to 8.8% (Senthilingam 2017). This provides an interesting contrast to Dina’s personal perception that fewer people in Banjarmasin are smoking, and taking up smoking. One explanation for this might be that only the children who are receiving an education are aware of the dangers of smoking, so in Dina’s immediate circle of friends (who are all at university) it might seem like fewer people are smoking, when outside of Dina’s social circle, the opposite is true. Another explanation could be that the effects of tobacco are less important to Indonesians of lower income who focus more on working to survive, rather than aiming for a longer and healthier life. Regardless, it is evident that smoking is deeply interwoven in Indonesian culture, affecting countless victims – both first-hand and second-hand smokers. From my experience with Dina, is seems as if education is Indonesia’s path to a clear future.



Steinberg, L. & Monahan, K. C. 2007, Age differences in resistance to peer influence, Developmental Psychology, Vol 43(6), 1531-1543

Senthilingam, M. 2017, Chain-smoking children: Indonesia’s ongoing tobacco epidemic, CNN, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Sohn, K. 2014, A note on the effects of education on youth smoking in a developing country, Vol. 19, Iss. 1, viewed 22 January 2018, <;

Post C: Banjarmasin and Youth


An interview with Risky Amanda Yogaswara (who goes by Yoga).

In a lush, tree lined city, constructed amidst bustling rivers, who’s citizens can be seen donning tracksuits for early morning runs in the tropical heat, a habit that damages the health of the city and its citizenry stands out like a bule. I went into the conversation with Yoga (21) at the Universitas Lambung Mangkurat hoping to understand what inspired Banjarmasin youth to smoke, and came out with a story of a young man struggling to carve out his own identity in a city with strong traditions and laws.

Yoga moved to Banjarmasin when he was 4 because his father found pharmacy work in the city and has a younger sister aged 17 also wants to pursue pharmacy. He chose instead to do natural studies (similar to biology with a strong focus on the Kalimantan area), inspired by family holidays where he would experience Borneo’s rich biodiversity as a child. Yoga told me he wants to be able to preserve this for future generations, which is becoming a big challenge.

I enquired more about Yoga’s travels, curious about whether he had ventured outside of Kalimantan and experienced areas with a different ethnic, religious and cultural fabric. We bonded over Chiang Rai, a city in northern Thailand where he had worked for one month teaching English to local students. In a happy coincidence, I found out that his experience in Chiang Mai overlapped the topic I was trying to understand; what encourages Banjaramsin youth to smoke, and also what inspires them to quit.

Upon arriving in Chaing Rai, Yoga was shocked at the price of cigarettes and at five times more expensive than in Banjaramsin, he told himself he would reduce how much he smoked in Thailand. The greater inspiration came when he met a girl in Chiang Rai. “She was so nice” Yoga told me “ and she didn’t like me smoking so I chose to stop doing it”. The process was difficult but Yoga used financial pressure to reinforce his emotional reasons for quitting. His path to quitting involved two months vaping, which allowed him to reduce and regulate his nicotine intake. Being much more expensive than cigarettes, he could not sustain it for long and eventually stopped completely, a common path for young people around the world choosing to stop smoking (Beard et al 2016, Rieder 1998).

Along with being an emotional awakening, Chiang Rai was also a chance to test Yoga own religious boundaries. He tried his first beer over there and went out to nightclubs. Asking if he enjoyed it he flashed me a guilty smile, “Yes”. “I was scared to tell my mother, but when I did she wasn’t angry. She just told me not to do it again. I don’t think I will.”

Our conversation inevitably faded away after students began offering us local sweets but as we took our final photo together, I felt humbled to have had such an honest encounter with Yoga.


Beard, E., West., R. 2016, ‘Association between electronic cigarette use and changes in quit attempts, success of quit attempts, use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, and use of stop smoking services in England: time series analysis of population trends’, British Medical Journal, vol. 354.

Rieder, M. 1998, ‘Effect of changes in the price of cigarettes on the rate of adolescent smoking’, Paediatrics & Child Health, vol. 3, pp. 97-100.

The Conversation 2014, Palm oil continues to destroy Indonesian wildlife, The Conversation, viewed 20 January 2017, <;.