Monday, March 8, 2010

Smoke 'em If You Got 'em

Jakarta is probably 20 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to smoking bylaws. That makes this city a smoker's paradise. Smoking is allowed virtually everywhere. A smoker in Jakarta is a free man/woman. Suddenly, the walls have been torn down, you can smoke at a bar or club without having to go outside. Smoking in restaurants is pretty much always an option. Some have very small non-smoking areas right next to the smoking area. It is often socially acceptable to smoke inside people's houses and cars. It is not uncommon to see a father driving his car with the window cracked slightly while his 2 children sit in the back. The downside to this is that it makes one smoke much more than they normally would.

The complete social acceptance is only one side of the coin. The other is the cost of cigarettes. A pack (depending on the brand) generally goes for close to $1 USD. They are so cheap that I don't care if I lose a pack or if friends bum smokes (or fags) from me all night long. People often share the packs of cigarettes littering a table at a bar as it is often difficult to remember which one belongs to you. This is a far cry to my back home smoking days when you would guard your smokes with your life. These factors are great for a while until you realize that you've been smoking and occupying smoke filled rooms for years on end.

The whole "smoking is bad for you" phenomenon hasn't really caught on yet in Indonesia. Young children may tell you that it's bad but the adult population doesn't really buy it. They don't think that it's good for you but they may believe that it's bad for you the same way that Coca-Cola is.
Smoking is what men do in this country. Indonesian cigarettes are often a mixture of tobacco and cloves. They have a sweet smell and crackle when smoked. One company called Gudang Garam proudly advertises itself as a MAN'S cigarette. They have these over the top television commercials where people are skydiving in Patagonia or white water rafting. Whenever they complete their physically demanding activity, they sit down and light a Gudang Garam. Another brand of cigarettes called Dji Sam Soe was invented as a cure for bronchitis. They are extremely large, dense, heavy cigarettes. It takes a REAL man to finish just one.

For years, I thought that this whole smoking culture was very liberating. The only places I've seen where not smoking is actually enforced are schools and fast food restaurants (probably because they are from America). There are smoking bylaws in many places but they are not enforced. Hospitals only allow smoking in certain areas. Many other public places will have a "designated smoking area" that is out in the open. This means that the smoke can travel all around a room but you can only smoke in one corner of said room. Now, I've decided that it's time to quit. The liberty of smoking has now become very repressive. It is almost impossible to go anywhere where people aren't smoking. If you go out to a bar or club, your clothes will smell like smoke for days. I never realized how smoky it can be in some places until I wasn't smoking in them.

I haven't done that well with the quitting so far but this time I have a long term plan to stick with it. I'm sure you've heard that one before. The short term quitting is not that difficult. The long term becomes difficult when you walk into a room and half of the people in there are smoking. I have friends who have quit numerous time and usually fall back into it slowly. I predict that smoking in public places in Jakarta will not happen much before the year 2020 and that it will take another 2 years to actually get people to stop. In the meantime, I'll try to endure this one time paradise that has turned into my personal hell.

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen this story? "Religious minister criticizes Muhammadiyah for anti-smoking edict" |

    Ha! This is so backwards on so many levels I don't know where to begin!